Hair has become an invaluable resource in forensic, clinical, and bioarchaeological research. The unique interaction between the growing hair fiber, the hair follicle, and the endocrine system inundates the growing hair fiber with an incremental record of many of the discreet physiological processes of the body. Recently, a novel study by Webb et al. (2010) demonstrated that endogenous records of cortisol, the "stress hormone", are capable of being extracted from archaeological human hair through a modified enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) technique, thus providing insight into the "invisible" stress experiences of an individual that would otherwise not be detectable through skeletal analysis. The present study seeks to apply this novel ELISA technique to archaeological hair to determine whether endogenous patterns of secretion are detectable for the steroid reproductive hormones estradiol and testosterone. Here, hair from 10 individuals from the Kellis 2 cemetery in the Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt is analyzed for endogenous concentrations of the steroid hormones cortisol, estradiol, and testosterone. A control sample consisting of hair from 10 modern cadavers is also assessed for each hormone to ensure method efficacy. Cortisol, estradiol, and testosterone were successfully identified in all 10 archaeological individuals and in each of the 10 individuals in the modern control group. Results revealed that archaeological preservation of each hormone was favorable, and incremental patterning of each hormone seem to reflect endogenous hormone secretion in life. Values for cortisol, estradiol in pre-menopausal females, and testosterone extracted from the archaeological and modern control samples fall within reference values taken from archaeological and clinical research; however, estradiol values for males and postmenopausal females exceeded projected reference values. Explorations for variables which could contribute to discrepancies between reported and observed estradiol values are provided, along with two case studies on female individuals from the archaeological sample. The results of this study demonstrate that steroid reproductive hormones can be preserved in archaeological human hair, and that these hormones can be analyzed to create additional lines of inquiry into bioarcheological studies of ancient health and fertility.
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Tisdale, Elisha, "A Preliminary Assessment of Steroid Reproductive Hormones in Archaeological Human Hair Utilizing a Modified Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) Technique" (2017). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2004-2019. 5756.