June 29, 2014

Roman Bioarchaeology Carnival XLII

Such a slow month for Roman bioarchaeology.  As I suggested last month, I'm guessing everyone's mum for now, waiting until they have time to analyze finds and announce them. Here are your paltry links for this month.
1st BC warrior burial
in England (via TVAS)
  • June - A really interesting issue of Archaeological Dialogues reintroduces the question of "romanization" and how to talk about population interaction, particularly in the Roman provinces.  I found the articles fascinating, particularly since I study immigrants to Rome and look at ways they might have "acculturated" or "romanized" once there. While these articles are intriguing, almost all of them still lack a good solid anthropological perspective.  And bioarchaeology.
But if you want more to read about Romans, check out my latest posts:

June 27, 2014

Where did Roman babies poop?

Today in "what has been bugging Kristina for no good reason..." I started thinking about Roman babies (as I am missing mine while in the field) and wondering if the Romans had diapers.  After all, by the Imperial period, they'd invented flush toilets, so why not pinned cloth diapers?  But my internet connection at work is not terribly reliable, and I couldn't wait to get back to the apartment, so I posted the question to Twitter and Facebook.

A slew of classicists responded on Twitter, and Facebook gave me more of an anthropological view -- namely, in many parts of the world, today and in the past, babies simply didn't wear anything. They pooped and peed when and where they needed to.  Not to be ethnocentric or arrogant on the part of the Romans, but considering Imperial Rome was huge and urban, and considering their understanding of toilets, hygiene, and the like, I didn't think mothers (or nurses or slaves; probably not dads, of course) would go for the always-pooping infant.

Here are some of the bits I gleaned from crowdsourcing this question... no definitive answer, but a bunch of directions to go in:

Jane Draycott (@JLDraycott), Roman historian and archaeologist, chimed in with a bunch of tweets:

  • "The Roman Toilet Handbook has sections on chamber pots, children's toilet habits, & a photo of a child's potty!"
  • "The most recent research on Roman swaddling: [by Emma-Jayne Graham] http://www.open.ac.uk/people/eg4439 ."
  • "Soranus talks about the correct form of swaddling, and there are lots of swaddled baby votive terracottas."
Caroline Wazer, a PhD student in ancient history at Columbia (@CarolineWazer), found an image of a nursing mother on a Roman sarcophagus: "Here's a nursing mother & baby on a 2nd c sarcophagus at the Louvre. Tunic/diaper combo? pic.twitter.com/C76NdTL6of."

And Sarah Bond (@SarahEBond), a Roman historian, offered: "Oh wait! I remember the Greek word: spargana. Also, Pliny talked about diaper rash one time, I think. I can't remember the book/chapter."

I echo what classicist Liz Gloyn (@LizGloyn) said on Twitter: "Watching @DrKillgrove sourcing information about ancient Roman baby nappies = another reason classics!academic!twitter is brilliant."  But I also wonder what else we don't really know about the Roman world... clearly, we need much more feminist research into classical antiquity.  Asking what Roman babies pooped in is a deceptively simple question, but one that classicists (who tended to be upper class males for the last couple hundred years) and the ancient historians themselves (who tended to be upper class males, of course) haven't seemed to bother with.  What other questions about the lives of babies might we be able to answer?

June 25, 2014

Ever wonder if you could get an implant of an ancient Roman tooth?

... because I spent hours thinking about this the other morning.  Fortunately, I met a dentist-turned-classicist and learned some random stuff.

Etruscan bridge. See, I'm not the
first to think of this!
First up: Theoretically, could you implant an ancient Roman tooth in your jaw... you know, to screw with future bioarchaeologists?  According to the dentist (who shall remain nameless, because I don't need to drag him into my crazy) -- yes.  But the root would need to be coated in titanium.  And even then, the body would still probably reject it.  He said that there have been attempts to implant a person's own tooth (that was knocked out, for example), and it hasn't worked well.  The person often develops a gross, festering ulcer that doesn't heal.  In terms of the technology, though, a dentist could attempt to implant an ancient Roman tooth into a modern person's mouth.  So, you know... #yolo.

And second: I asked if mandibular and maxillary tori run in families.  But apparently they're super common. Dentists often have to break your jawbone to fit you with dentures, if you have one of these tori.  I also got a detailed explanation of how to break the bone and remove it to fit dentures.  Coming so soon on the heels of my root canal... I shuddered.


If any of you all have random questions related to ancient teeth, let me know.  I am trying to up the ante, but I don't know if I can top the ancient implant question.

June 10, 2014

Stupid left mandibular first molar...

While I normally love seeing xrays -- of my own body or others' -- this was not fun to get this afternoon:

So that's my left mandibular first molar, the one with the crown (which I got after the tooth cracked from being drilled-and-filled three times), and there's some nice inflammation of the periodontal ligament and a teeny little abscess forming. I hate this tooth; it's the only one I've ever had problems with, but boy have I had problems with it.

Root canal is scheduled for Monday morning.  Wish me luck.  Yecch.

June 2, 2014

Who needs an osteologist? (False Alarm Edition)

I posted a link to the article "Skeleton may be Irish Viking king" (BBC News) to the BioAnthropology News group on Facebook the other day.  This picture caused bioarchaeologist Lesley Gregoricka and me to start a conversation about whether it should be featured on Who needs an osteologist?

Image from BBC News.

Here's our edited-for-relevance back-and-forth, which was eventually solved by the discovery of a high-res photograph at Past Horizons.

LG: Is that the ulna placed where the clavicle should be?

KK: No, that looks fine.  The scapula fragment is oriented weirdly, though, or possibly missided.

LG: Really? I could swear that's the styloid process oriented medially, with a missing proximal end (oriented laterally). The curve of the diaphysis also doesn't look particularly clavicle-like. Still, it's difficult to assess from this photo.

KK: It is a strange curve. But the ulnae in the picture look like ulnae, and I can see some clavicle-like morphology.  And I think the inferior aspect of the clavicle is superior in the picture.

LG: Ah, I only saw one ulna (L arm) but two radii (L and R), and thought perhaps the R ulna had been erroneously placed.

KK: Ohhh, yeah. Man, it's hard to see on a smartphone. Will try to find a better picture to examine in detail.  [...] Past Horizons has a better pic.  You're right about the radii, I am about the clavicle:

Image from Past Horizons.

LG: Thanks for finding that expanded image. MUCH clearer that the medial clavicle was, in fact, broken (hence my thinking the projection was the styloid process)!

So there you have it -- Who needs an osteologist? outtakes!

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