Signs of childhood physiological stresses in a South African human skeletal collection


  • Johanna Maria de Lange Division of Clinical Anatomy, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University
  • Amanda Alblas Division of Clinical Anatomy, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University
  • Monique Nel Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Chantelle Marais Division of Clinical Anatomy, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, South Africa.



linear enamel hypoplasia, Harris Lines, Kirsten Skeletal Collection, childhood physiological stress


Background: HarrisLines(HL)andLinearEnamelHypoplasia(LEH) are non-specific skeletal markers of health status. The aetiology of these markers has not yet been confirmed due to a lack of contem- porary clinical studies but is assumed to occur due to health insults associated with low socio-economic status (SES). Most studies re- garding HL and LEH have been conducted on the archaeological re- mains of historic populations. This provides a problem when trying to determine the aetiology of the afore-mentioned defects as medical histories of those individuals being tested are unknown.

Objectives: This study aims to determine if there is an association be- tween LEH and HL in a contemporary South African skeletal popu- lation with mainly low social background individuals.
Sample and Methods The skull and x-rays of long bones of individuals (n=592) aged between 20–90 years who lived between 1900 – 1995 sampled from the Stellenbosch University Skeletal Repository, were assessed for presence of HL and LEH.

Results: The study found no significant association between LEH and HL, with 7.64% of those with HL also having LEH (p=0.512). There was also no significant association between HL and LEH in females (p=0.331), but a significant association in males (p=0.027). A significant association between LEH, HL and different age-at- death groups was found in the middle group (40–59 years-of-age-at- death; p=0.006), with the least significant association in the oldest age-at-death group (>60 years-of-age-at-death; p=0.418).

Conclusion: In this South African cohort, no clear association between LEH and HL could be established, indicating that the aetiology of these disease markings should still be investigated.


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How to Cite

de Lange, J. M., Alblas, A., Nel, M., & Marais, C. (2023). Signs of childhood physiological stresses in a South African human skeletal collection. Human Biology and Public Health, 2.