Master of Arts (MA)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



Transverse (Harris) lines are lines of opacity that extend across the medullary cavity in long bones; they are sometimes are also found in irregular bones. Predominantly, Harris lines are seen in radiographs of the tibiae. Many scholars believe that these lines of opacity are caused by nutritional interruptions during growth, while others believe these lines to be indicators of stress recovery, rather than interruption. This study examines the incidence of transverse lines in a Pre-Columbian Costa Rican population, called Vidor, located on the northwest Bay of Culebra. The burials of this population, originally excavated in 1977, contained more than 40 skeletons. Subsequent excavations at the site revealed a total of 192 individuals, most of which were juveniles and neonates and dated as far back as A.D. 300. Tibiae and ilia from 39 individuals of the Vidor population were radiographed in order to determine if any transverse lines were present and, if so, what the implications of nutritional status might be. The results showed that none of the ilia revealed any transverse lines in the x-rays and only seven of the tibiae exhibited opacities. Two of the seven tibiae exhibiting transverse lines contained multiple lines. A study conducted on the Vidor population by Obando (1995) included analysis of enamel hypoplasias and cortical bone thickness. The study showed that there were high frequencies of enamel hypoplasias and a loss of cortical bone starting as early as 1.0 years of age and lasting until six years of age, coinciding with weaning ages. Obando’s study concluded that there were some nutritional deficiencies occurring in the Vidor population. The current study on transverse lines did not produce the same results. This study showed that, while there were some bands of opacity occurring in the tibiae, they could not be directly attributed to a dietary response.



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Committee Chair

Mary H. manhein