Vitamin C deficiency, or scurvy, is a disease that can occur in humans at any age and has been seen throughout time. Scurvy affects the production of connective tissues, including collagen, which leads to the many symptoms of the disease, including fatigue, anemia, bleeding gums and lost teeth, skeletal changes, and even death. The Kellis 2 cemetery in the Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt, in use from approximately AD 50-360, contains the remains of many juveniles who exhibit skeletal indicators of scurvy. Tissue samples from juveniles who did (n=31) and did not (n=117) exhibit skeletal indicators of scurvy were analyzed isotopically, with the sample including stable carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) isotope values of bone collagen (scurvy =11, non-scurvy =13), hair (scurvy=21, non-scurvy=112), nail (scurvy =10, non-scurvy =44), and skin (scurvy =19, non-scurvy =59). Intra-tissue comparisons were conducted to determine whether this disease affects δ13C and δ15N values sufficiently to distinguish these two groups from one another isotopically. Inter-tissue comparisons between bone collagen and hair were also conducted, with emphasis placed on inter-tissue spacing results and outliers. Mean δ13C and δ15N values for each hair segment were compared to look for early isotopic signals of scurvy. No statistically significant differences were found between any intra-tissue scurvy and non-scurvy cohorts and no obvious indications of the onset of scurvy were seen in the hair segment analyses. The inter-tissue spacing results, however, highlighted some interesting patterns in the bone collagen-to-hair values, especially in regards to the identified outliers that are discussed in more detail. While this study did not detect any significant differences between scurvy and non-scurvy cohorts or early isotopic signals of the disease in hair segments, the inter-tissue spacing results do point to changes between the cohorts that may be attributable to the physiological stress of scurvy and therefore warrants further investigation.
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Chasse, Georgina, "Investigations of Possible Cases of Scurvy in Juveniles from the Kellis 2 Cemetery in the Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt, Through Stable Carbon and Nitrogen Isotopic Analysis of Multiple Tissues" (2018). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 6025.