This study describes a human foot bone assemblage from prehistoric Mangaia, Cook Islands in the context of diaphyseal cross-sectional strength measures. We use this sample to test the hypothesis that habitually unshod individuals who walk over rugged terrain will have stronger foot bones than a sample of habitually shod industrialized people. Specifically, we examine whether the Mangaian sample has a stronger size-adjusted metatarsal (MT) and phalangeal cross-sectional properties than the industrial sample, drawn from the Terry Collection. Contrary to expectations, residual analyses showed that most values of cross-sectional area (CA) and torsional resistance (J) of MTs 1-4 and the hallucal proximal phalanx (HPP) of the Mangaians are among those in the lower range of the Terry Collection sample. However, the bending strength ratios (Zy/Zx) of the Mangaian HPP are significantly greater than those of the Terry Collection. While characteristics such as forefoot shape variation between the sexes and among geographic populations cannot be ruled out as influential factors, cross-sectional properties of the hallucal proximal phalanges, but not the MTs, indicate terrain complexity in prehistoric populations.
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