December 15, 2011

Roman Bioarchaeology Carnival X

This is a wee bit late, since I just finished grading for the semester and am cleaning out my office (since I'm headed back to Chapel Hill on Saturday).  There are a bunch of interesting links this week, so let's get started...

  • 5 December.  A pre-Roman cremation necropolis (1200-1000 BC) and two Roman houses (one with an oven) were found in Bolzano.  Coverage is in Italian via ArcheoRivista.
  • 8 December.  In 2008, Megan Perry and colleagues published an article in the International Journal of Palaeopathology on a possible parasite recovered from a Late Roman burial from Aqaba, Jordan.  A reanalysis of the object was published in IJOA this week by Della Cook and R.R. Patrick, who think that it may instead be a fossil marine invertebrate rather than human tissue or a human parasite.
  • 8 December.  A second necropolis in Vatican City will be opening to the public in spring 2012 (ignore the fact that the article mistakes Pompey for Pompeii).  The necropolis runs along the ancient Via Triumphalis and consists of over 40 grave structures and over 200 individual tombs, dating to the 1st-2nd centuries AD.  This find is significant and important, particularly for those interested in grave types in the Empire, and I think this is the one published in The Vatican Necropoles, which is an astounding book (in English!) with the best pictures of Roman grave structures I have ever seen.  Now if only I could get my hands on all the skeletons...
  • 9 December.  Julio Martinez Florez claims to have found the earliest evidence of trepanation that was practiced for medical reasons, in late 5th-mid 6th century Spain.  The skull comes from a man of about 40-50 years old, and Martinez Florez diagnosed the man with a brain tumor.  There's only one good picture of the skull, and it doesn't look anything like a trepanation to me.  It looks like some sort of lytic lesion.  It's entirely possible that the hole we see is the direct result of a brain tumor.  I'm not at all sure what his evidence for surgical intervention (trepanation) is.  Trepanations typically have very well-defined edges - it's been practiced for centuries, and in most societies there are high survival rates, evidence of healing, and evidence that the surgeon knew what he was doing. This hole in the skull looks like it could be the result of a disease process (hell, it could be post-mortem for all I can tell from the picture).  Anyway, until a peer-reviewed article comes out on this, I'm very skeptical.
Skull that reeeeally doesn't look like it was trepanned
(credit: ArcheoRivista)
  • 12 December.  A nice piece by Reuters discusses Spain's prehistoric burial chambers, which date back 5,000 years.  In 2007, a burial chamber was found with the skeletons of one man and 19 women arranged in a circle.  The thought is that the drank poison to accompany the man into the afterlife.  Now, experts are suggesting that Spain generate tourist dollars from displaying the dolmens, but the Spanish are also concerned with preserving their heritage.
  • 13 December.  Real Roman gladiators suffered broken noses and bruises.  Now you too can make your body look like that of a gladiator - by joining an "authentic" gladiator school in Trier (Germany).  The first rule of Roman Fight Club is, you do not talk about Roman Fight Club!
Possible skulls of Boudica's rebels (credit: London Evening Standard)

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