Documentary sources refer to leprosy patients in the Portuguese territory since the first century AD, and in the Middle Ages around 70 leprosaria were established. However, prior to 2003 this historical evidence had not been confirmed by archeological findings. The excavation performed in monitoring the rehabilitation done by the Polis program in the area of the Ermida de Santo André (hermitage of Saint Andrew) allowed the exhumation of seven human skeletons, and commingled bones from at least three individuals, in the vicinity of the Beja leprosarium. The objective of this study is to present the paleopathological lesions relevant to the discussion of the differential diagnosis of leprosy. Macroscopic observation of the bones and scrutiny of lesions according to the paleopathological literature allowed the identification of a probable case of leprosy in an adult male, showing rhinomaxillary changes and concentric remodeling of hand and foot bones, and four possible cases (two young adults and two adults, all probably males), with a set of lesions in facial bones and skeletal extremities. The poor preservation of the bones precluded further confirmation of this diagnosis. According to historical data, the leprosaria functioned between the 14th and 16th centuries AD. The exact chronology of these findings was not determined either during the excavation or by radiocarbon dating because the bones presented poor collagen levels. In Portugal as a whole there are few osteological evidences of leprosy, and thus this study adds new information about this chronic infectious disease.
Dual-inheritance theory posits that the genotype has an impact on the evolution of human behavior and that cultural traits can be constrained by genetic imperatives. A large body of studies provides evidence that the functional catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) Val158Met polymorphism is associated with executive function, working memory (WM), and intelligence. A survey of the population genetics database provides evidence that COMT gene frequencies vary across populations. The aim of the present study was to test the hypothesis that the COMT gene has an impact on cultural evolution, specifically on the adoption of an agricultural vs. a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Statistically significant differences in COMT allele frequencies between hunter-gatherer and agricultural societies were found. Ethnic groups whose economy is based on farming have higher frequencies of the Met allele (symbol: A), whereas societies based on a hunter-gatherer economy have very low frequencies of the Met allele and a disproportionate predominance of the Val allele. Moreover, the frequency of the Met allele was positively correlated to the populations’ IQ (r = 0.57). The FNBP1L gene (rs236330) is associated with childhood and adult intelligence and it varies in frequency across populations. Frequency of rs236330 was also significantly correlated with the populations’ IQ (r = 0.81). COMT and FNBP1L had fairly similar geographical distributions (r = 0.44) although the result did not reach statistical significance. The results suggest that the genotype of a population influences its cultural development in fairly specific and predictable ways. Met allele frequency was positively correlated with latitude (r = 0.56), suggesting selective pressure due to climate.
This study provides a review of the skeletal manifestations of infantile scurvy and presents four cases observed in the Bácsalmás–Óalmás series (247 subadults and 234 adults; 126 males, 113 females, 242 unknown sex) dating from the 16–17th centuries AD. In the case of these four infants (aged 6 months–3 years) bilateral porous bone lesions were found on the external surface of the cranial bones. In three cases, these features were associated with porous new bone formations and/or abnormal blood vessel impressions in the internal surface of the skull. Moreover, porotic alterations of the long bones occurred in all cases and were mostly symmetrically developed. In order to confirm the origin of the observed features, the lesions were investigated using microscopic techniques. Analyses of the cross sections provided similar results in each case: newly built bone formations were visible on the external bone surfaces. These new bone layers are only found externally to the original bone surfaces. Thus, the original bone substance was not affected. On the basis of the characteristics of the observed lesions and their topographic distribution in the skeleton, and, additionally, by the use of microscopic analyses, we can state that the most likely diagnosis is scurvy. Furthermore, the co-occurrence of anaemia was also confirmed in one case. Up to now, there has been no archaeological evidence of scurvy in Central Europe in this time period, although on the basis of historical sources, the occurrence of this disease was expected. Additionally, besides these four cases, there are numerous other possible cases of infantile scurvy in this population, which suggests that the diet of the examined individuals was probably poor in vegetables and fruits.
Variations in oral paleopathology have been widely documented among groups stemming from different regions or periods to clarify the relationship between human health and type of subsistence. The skeletal materials unearthed around the Great Wall in northern China are suitable for this aim since archeological studies minutely report the changes in subsistence in the area. We examined oral health in the skeletal assemblages of nine millet agricultural groups between the Middle Neolithic period (c. 3800–2800 BC) and the Sixteen Kingdoms period (304–439 AD) around the Great Wall of China, and found a consistent increase in the prevalence of caries over time. Although this finding is based on analysis without sufficient demographic data, the statistically similar age distribution among the groups suggests a minimum effect of sampling error. Further analysis using three groups that have a relatively large sample size for each sex and age category also showed an increase in caries, ante-mortem tooth loss, periapical abscess, and calculus prevalence, and a decrease in advanced attrition, suggesting an increased consumption of agricultural foods. This trend could be a result of a more tender/refined diet related to the development of food-processing techniques, which have been demonstrated by archaeological/historical evidence and stable isotope analyses. On the other hand, sex differences in oral health varied between the Jiangjialiang Middle Neolithic and the Tuchengzi Warring States samples. In the Middle Neolithic assemblage, the frequency of advanced dental attrition in males was 3-fold that of females, suggesting the sexual division of labor in this period. In contrast, in the Warring States assemblage, the prevalence of caries in young males was a quarter of that in young females, reflecting the difference of living environments between the sexes, where young males were probably under military conscription at that time.
The purposes of this study are to conduct paleodemographic and paleopathological analyses of medieval human skeletons from Japan and to clarify their life and death situations. The materials used here were individuals from the Yuigahama-chusei-shudan-bochi site (Seika-ichiba location) (i.e. YCSB-SI), located along the Yuigahama seashore of the southern end of Kamakura City. Several new findings regarding the life and death situations of YCSB-SI were obtained: (1) YCSB-SI exhibited a younger age-at-death distribution than other skeletal series; (2) the frequency of caries lesions in YCSB-SI was 5%, females exhibited more caries lesions than males and this group exhibited the lowest caries prevalence rate among Japanese populations; (3) the frequencies of enamel hypoplasia were 67% in the upper central incisors and 73% in the lower canines, which were almost equal to those of non-medieval series; and (4) the presence of weapon-related traumas on the cranium and limb bones from YCSB-SI was demonstrated. It is inferred from the present and previously reported data that population concentration in Kamakura impacted negatively on the lives of the inhabitants, possibly by malnutrition, increase of infectious diseases, and occasionally death by violence, and that all the results can be consistently explained by assuming urbanization and severe living conditions in medieval Kamakura.
Sharp force trauma to the skeleton is an important source of evidence for violent injury in the past. Lesions attributable to possible perimortem sharp force injury were observed in 20 fragments within disarticulated and commingled human bone from the Smith’s Knoll collection, an assemblage associated with the battle of Stoney Creek (1813, southern Ontario, Canada). Following analysis, questions remained surrounding lesions on fragments of the ribs and one distal fibula (SK0129). To better evaluate which injuries to the ribs were perimortem and what weapon is likely to have caused the injury to the fibula, faunal proxies were constructed and experimental lesions created using period replicas of a sword and a triangular socket bayonet. Similarities between the archaeological rib lesions and experimentally produced bayonet injuries indicate that 14 of the 38 lesions present in the rib fragments likely represent perimortem injuries. Two possible scenarios involving the sword and triangular socket bayonet were tested to determine the likely cause of the injury on the fibula. This injury displayed significant differences in appearance from the experimentally produced bayonet lesions on the replica lower leg, and was observed to correspond closely with characteristics associated with sword injuries described in the literature. This indicates that the lesion more likely represents the result of a sword stroke. Consideration of these injuries in the context of historical documentation regarding soldier experience during the battle of Stoney Creek helps to explain the apparently unusual placement of sharp force injuries within the skeleton of the individuals in the Smith’s Knoll collection. This sample provides a unique opportunity for an evaluation of archaeological lesions that incorporates historical, experimental, and osteoarchaeological evidence, allowing a more nuanced understanding of violent injury in the past.
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