The association of parturition scars and pelvic shape: A geometric morphometric study

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Objectives: Pelvic features, mostly known as parturition scars, have been extensively studied in the last decades and are frequently investigated in archaeological and forensic contexts. It is still unclear, however, whether they really relate to pregnancy and birth, or whether these features are caused by other biomechanical factors. Because the length and difficulty of labor correlates with the form of the birth canal, we studied the association between the expression of pelvic features and pelvic shape using geometric morphometrics.

Materials and Methods: We scored the expression of the preauricular sulcus, margo auricularis groove, sacral preauricular extension, dorsal and ventral pubic pitting for 54 individuals from a 19th century collection and 19 individuals from the Bronze Age cemetery of Hainburg-Teichtal, Austria. Based on photogrammetric surface models, pelvic shape was captured by 331 landmarks and semilandmarks. The multivariate association between pelvic features and pelvic shape was explored by partial least squares analysis.

Results: Within the female subsample, we detected a significant association of a constrained birth canal with a strong expression of the preauricular sulcus, the margo auricularis groove, and a retroverted position of the acetabulum. No significant association was found among males.

Discussion: This suggests that difficult or prolonged labor may indeed cause more strongly expressed pelvic features, presumably because of increased strain of the pelvic ligaments during birth. Furthermore, the retroversion of the acetabulum, which is known to cause sacroiliac joint dysfunction, changes the strain on pelvic ligaments and can thus also result in the development of pronounced pelvic features.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)519-531
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 106018 Human biology


  • AGE
  • BODY
  • SIZE
  • childbirth
  • geometric morphometrics
  • parturition scars
  • preauricular sulcus
  • retroverted acetabulum

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