In this chapter, osteoarthritis etiology, which is often thought to be the result of wear and tear on joints, is examined using a multidisciplinary approach. Bioarchaeologists look for porosity, eburnation, and osteophytic lipping on joints to identify osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is ubiquitous in bioarchaeological skeletal remains, but it also occurs in 70 percent of people over 65 years old in living populations. Anthropologists use occupational research to surmise that osteoarthritis is caused by overuse of joints, but medical researchers have found that osteoarthritis of certain joints (e.g., knee) have high heritability rates. Plus, age is the best predictor for who has osteoarthritis. Yet osteoarthritis patterns between past populations and modern clinical samples differ; for example, earlier populations have an earlier onset than in modern populations.
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