Publication Details

Nava, A., Coppa, A., Coppola, D., Mancini, L., Dreossi, D., Zanini, F., Bernardini, F., Tuniz, C. & Bondioli, L. (2017). Virtual histological assessment of the prenatal life history and age at death of the Upper Paleolithic fetus from Ostuni (Italy). Scientific Reports, 7 9427-1-9427-10.


The fetal remains from the Ostuni 1 burial (Italy, ca 27 ka) represent a unique opportunity to explore the prenatal biological parameters, and to reconstruct the possible patho-biography, of a fetus (and its mother) in an Upper Paleolithic context. Phase-contrast synchrotron X-ray microtomography imaging of two deciduous tooth crowns and microfocus CT measurements of the right hemimandible of the Ostuni 1b fetus were performed at the SYRMEP beamline and at the TomoLab station of the Elettra - Sincrotrone laboratory (Trieste, Italy) in order to refine age at death and to report the enamel developmental history and dental tissue volumes for this fetal individual. The virtual histology allowed to estimate the age at death of the fetus at 31-33 gestational weeks. Three severe physiological stress episodes were also identified in the prenatal enamel. These stress episodes occurred during the last two months and half of pregnancy and may relate to the death of both individuals. Compared with modern prenatal standards, Os1b's skeletal development was advanced. This cautions against the use of modern skeletal and dental references for archaeological finds and emphasizes the need for more studies on prenatal archaeological skeletal samples.



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