An Examination of Musculoskeletal Markers to Analyze Occupational Type of a Modern Documented Population Using the Coimbra Method




Wiedenmeyer, Emilie

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Determining occupational type as part of the biological profile has significant implications for human identification in forensic anthropology. Overall increased activity levels have been shown to manifest in musculoskeletal markers, otherwise referred to as entheseal changes. Although several different methods have been used to assess entheseal changes in bioarchaeological collections, few approaches have been used to examine modern documented collections (Cardoso & Henderson, 2010; Villotte et al., 2010; Henderson, Mariotti, Pany-Kucera, Villotte, & Wilczak, 2013; Nolte & Wilczak, 2013; Mountrakis & Manolis, 2015; Henderson, Mariotti, Pany-Kucera, Villotte, & Wilczak, 2016; Henderson, Mariotti, Santos, Villotte, & Wilczak, 2017; Michopoulou, Nikita, & Henderson, 2017). Henderson and colleagues ( 2013) created the Coimbra Method to score specific features of fibrocartilaginous entheseal changes in known bioarchaeological collections. This study applied the same method to a recently donated skeletal collection with self-reported information to examine whether the method could be used in a forensic anthropological context. Generalized Estimating Equations were used to see possible correlations between the different features of the entheseal sites and the activity levels based on the reported occupational type, specifically manual and non-manual labor. Correlations with variables such as socio-economic status, sex, and age were also compared to correlations seen with activity levels to assess whether the reported occupational type aptly described the resulting entheseal changes compared to the outside variables. The results showed that although the Coimbra Method was a useful method for examining the severity of entheseal changes in a modern individual, the entheseal changes did not often correlate to reported occupations and their assumed activity levels. Other variables such as age and sex showed mixed results dependent on the entheseal site and feature being examined. Out of all the variables, socio-economic status showed the most consistent correlation with many of the entheseal sites, indicating that the lower levels usually had more entheseal changes than the higher levels. However, all variables were inconsistent overall, suggesting that entheseal sites in general represent a mosaic of factors in an individual’s life, and they should not be tied to only one variable when being analyzed. Results also suggested that recent documented populations with self-reported data do not showcase the full extent of the activity levels of each individual in their reported occupations, and research focused on such subjects should be careful and not limit their criteria to just occupation. The Coimbra Method as a whole presented itself as a viable tool in examining the individual features seen in an entheseal site, but the method was rather complicated for researchers who are just learning the different rules and measurements included in the original and updated publications (Henderson et al., 2013; Henderson et al., 2016). A potential future focus for this method could be to include a full photography series indicating the different stages and scores of the entheseal sites to ensure better accuracy for future research.



Entheseal changes, Coimbra method, Manual labor


Wiedenmeyer, E. (2019). <i>An examination of musculoskeletal markers to analyze occupational type of a modern documented population using the Coimbra method</i> (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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