October 31, 2014

Roman Bioarchaeology Carnival LXV

Welp, I seem to have missed last month's RBC.  Oops.  So here's an extra-large helping of Roman(ish) bioarchaeology news for the last couple of months!

Italy and Greece

"Witch girl". Via Discovery News.
Britain
  • 23 October. Roman-Britons had less gum disease than modern Britons (Medical Xpress). Over 300 skulls from Poundbury (Dorset; 200-400 AD) were studied for various dental diseases. Only 5% had significant periodontal disease, whereas 15-30% of modern Britons do. The Romano-Britons did have more carious lesions, abscesses, and tooth wear, though.
Siberia
  • 17 September.  Successful 2,300-year-old brain surgery techniques now being recreated in Siberia (IB Times). An interdisciplinary team of specialists is trying to recreate the form of and tools used for trepanation practiced by the Pazyryk people, who lived in the Altai Mountains (Siberia) and were known to the Greeks as early as the 5th century BC. Specifically, they posit a link between the Pazyryk and the Hippocratic Corpus, which mentions techniques like trepanation.  (This is possible, of course, that the knowledge was shared, but trepanation was independently invented at least several times over the course of human history.)
Asia Minor
  • 10 October. Mystery of mass graves in ancient Roman village under examination (Hurriyet). These mass graves were found in the ancient city of Pisidia Antiocheia and include 24 skeletons. They might be related to an epidemic that swept through between the 6th and 9th centuries AD, and the excavator thinks it may have been a family.
Gladiator blows. Via LiveScience.
Middle East
  • 30 September. Skeletons shed light on ancient earthquake in Israel (Discovery News). Archaeologists have found at least one skeleton (doesn't seem to be an MNI in the article) that they think was a person killed in a violent earthquake in 363 AD in the ancient city of Hippos.
Africa
  • 17 October. St. Mary's doctors determine 2,100-year-old "Mummy Girl" died of appendicitis (WPTV News).  For some reason, a bunch of radiologists scanned a mummy that's on display in a museum in West Palm Beach, Florida.  There's no suggestion for why they think she died of appendicitis (which isn't really common in young children, is it?).  They also apparently determined she was "Caucasian" which (even if we buy the idea that we could apply modern racial labels to people from 2,000 years ago, which WE CAN'T) is literally impossible from the bones of a child, so yeah.  No osteologists appear to have been consulted in this, even though there are plenty of us in this state.  Grrrr.  This kind of nonsense annoys me because you can't just xray or CT scan a mummy and assume that you have all the information a highly trained osteologist with expertise on human remains from the past would. (Another report suggests she died around 30 BC.)
News Items Relevant to Roman Bioarch
  • 11 October. The fatal attraction of lead (BBC News). Everyone loves lead poisoning lately, and this is a brief survey of its use over the last couple millennia.
Hope you all enjoy your Halloween!  I will get to last night's Bones as soon as I track down a copy, as my DVR messed up and didn't record it.  In the meantime, here are the cupcakes my 5-year-old made for the occasion:


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