Ursidae: The Undergraduate Research Journal at the University of Northern Colorado


Jennifer Wright


Colonization is often associated with exploitation of local laborers. However, the degree to which physical activity in local populations changes following colonization depends upon the policies of the colonizers, and the technologies that are locally available. This research tests the null hypothesis that levels of physical activity, as evidenced by osteoarthritis in human skeletons, remained constant at Epidamnus, Albania during Greek and Roman colonial occupation (620 BC-AD 378). To test this hypothesis, 80 skeletons from Epidamnus were examined for evidence of osteoarthritis, and scored according to international standardized protocols. Of these 80 individuals, 27 were adults that showed sufficient preservation for analysis of osteoarthritis. Results indicate osteoarthritis was more pronounced in all joint surfaces (shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee, ankle, cervical vertebra, and temporomandibular joint) during the Greek rather than the Roman period, with the exception of the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae. Chi-square analysis indicated that this pattern is statistically significant in the shoulder (p = 0.02) and ankle (p = 0.003), and approached significance in the elbow (p = 0.09), wrist (p = 0.06), and temporomandibular joint (p = 0.06). These results suggest differences between the Greek to the Roman period. Historical documents indicate Greek colonization resulted in increased dependence on agriculture and largely replaced nomadic pastoralism in local Illyrians. The Romans then introduced new technologies to increase agricultural efficiency. The emerging pattern indicates that the introduction of new, sophisticated technology made life easier for Illyrians during the Roman period. However, the impacts of small sample size are also considered.