Field paleoradiography of skeletal material from the Early Classic Period of Copan, Honduras

Kenneth C. Nystrom, Ethan M. Braunstein, Jane E. Buikstra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective: To perform a radiographic evaluation of the skeletal remains of 2 elite individuals from the Early Classic Period of Copan, namely, K'inich Yax K'uk' Mo' (Hunal Burial 95-2), founder of the Early Classic Dynasty, and the primary female interment from the Motmot tomb (Burial 37-8). Our aims were to document pathologies and subsequent changes in long-bone density resulting from physiologic or functional adaptations, such as disuse atrophy. Methods: Standardized anteroposterior and mediolateral radiographs were obtained using a portable veterinary x-ray unit and Polaroid film. Orthogonal radiographs were used to estimate the cross-sectional biomechanical properties of the long bones. Results: In the case of Yax K'uk' Mo', it appears that there was trauma-induced disuse atrophy of the right forearm resulting in an accelerated loss of cortical bone in the right humerus relative to the left humerus. The restructuring of this individual's left shoulder girdle probably resulted in radical structural and functional changes. Although this fracture could have contributed to degenerative changes and paralysis, there was no evidence of disuse atrophy in the left upper limb. The gracile Motmot skeleton showed no signs of osteoporosis, osteopenia or disuse atrophy. Conclusions: The use of radiography in the assessment of the skeletal material described here vastly increased our ability to document the pathologic processes that affected these centuries-old individuals during their lifetimes. In addition, the use of radiographs allowed us to expand our understanding of how these processes may have affected biomechanics and, subsequently, long-bone geometric properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)246-253
Number of pages8
JournalCanadian Association of Radiologists Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


Dive into the research topics of 'Field paleoradiography of skeletal material from the Early Classic Period of Copan, Honduras'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this