The purpose of this investigation was to examine cranial deformation versus normal cranial variation in ancient Korean populations from the 1st century B.C. to the 7th century A.D. by means of geometric morphometrics and multivariate statistical methods. The samples of human crania in this study were 7 male and 11 female individuals from the Yean-ri site, 4 males and 6 females from the Nukdo site, and 6 males and 4 females from the Imdang site. Of the 38 adult individuals, 2 females (Ye085 and Ye099) from the Yean-ri site were reported to have artificially deformed crania in a previous study. In the present study, two-dimensional geometric morphometric methodology was employed to evaluate cranial shape variation. Deformed crania were characterized as an anteroposterior modification based on Antón’s classification system. Deformed crania showed relatively flatter frontal and occipital bones and superoposteriorly developed parietal bones from a lateral view, which may reflect compensatory development due to pressure from an anterior to posterior direction. Moreover, Im095 (female) and Nu051 (male) had relatively flatter frontal bones and were similar to the deformed group; however, the convexity in the occipital bone was too pronounced to allocate these individuals to the deformed group.
In paleoparasitology, which is the study of ancient parasite species, parasite egg remnants in archaeological samples are examined by microscopic or molecular analysis. The parasitological information thus obtained can inform speculation about the parasite-infection patterns that prevailed in ancient societies. The current analysis of ancient feces removed from Joseon period mummies adds six new paleoparasitological outcomes to the existing pool of mummy parasitism data already maintained in South Korea. The current microscopic examination revealed the ancient parasite eggs of Trichuris, Clonorchis, Paragonimus, Ascaris, and Taenia in the Joseon mummy feces. When the updated Joseon data were compared with the 20th-century National Survey statistics of South Korea, clear differences could be observed between ancient and modern parasite infection rates. These results will yield invaluable insights—unobtainable by conventional historical investigation—that contribute to the knowledge base on the parasitism of pre-industrial East Asian societies.
Spread by infected galleys coming from Kaffa (Crimea), the Black Death reached Genoa, as it now seems, in the late summer of 1347 AD. Genoa functioned as an epicentre from which the contagion was spread into the mainland through a complex system of routes, which linked Liguria to northern and central Italy. Along these routes various institutions were found, namely ‘ospitali’ (hospitals) and ‘stationes’ (stations), where traders and pilgrims stopped to rest and recuperate. In 2006 a multiple burial archaeologically dated to the second half/end of the 14th century was discovered in the cemetery pertaining to the ‘ospitale’ of San Nicolao (Genoa). The excavation showed that it contained the remains of four individuals: a 38–40 week pregnant woman with her fetus and two sub-adults. Stratigraphy showed that these individuals were buried simultaneously. Given that the dating of the burial fits the arrival of the Second Pandemic in Europe, it was hypothesized that they might have died during the Black Death epidemic. The identification of Yersinia pestis F1 antigen in three of four individuals corroborated this hypothesis. Here we report the first evidence of Y. pestis infection in 14th-century Liguria and discuss the possible mechanisms of plague dissemination from Genoa into the surrounding regions. In fact, the ‘ospitale’ of San Nicolao, located at 792 m a.s.l. into the Bracco Massif, was used as a resting place/hostel by traders and travellers (e.g. pilgrims heading for Rome). This ‘ospitale’ represented a key point leading into a system of pathways forming the initial part of the Vie Romee better known under the name of Via Francigena in the Italian territory and, as a consequence, was the ideal site from which plague could be disseminated.
This paper presents the first radiological investigation of a collection of Sicilian mummies held in a crypt beneath the Mother Church of Piraino, Italy. The chamber contains 26 preserved bodies of religious dignitaries, either conserved vertically in special wall niches or horizontally on wooden shelves. The majority of bodies are clothed, and transportation outside of the crypt was not feasible. Therefore assessment of the remains via paleoradiological methods appeared to be the most convenient approach to investigate this precious ethno-anthropological heritage. Radiological examination of 23 of these mummies yielded information relating to their funerary treatment and some of the pathological alterations associated with the remains. These included osteoarthritis, diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis, and neoplasms, as well as any trauma present. These analyses provided insights into mortuary behavior and the osteobiographies of these clerical figures.
Reports on the health of the people of ancient Egypt, one of the four great civilizations of the world, are of considerable interest to many. This paper addresses the paleohealth of people from Qau in ancient Egypt based on samples housed at the University of Cambridge. This skeletal series extends from the Protodynastic Period to the 30th Dynasty, with the largest number being from the 6th to 8th Dynasties. The remains are divided into four groups (male, female, early middle age, and late middle age) and physical anthropology methods were used to investigate dental caries, periodontal disease, antemortem tooth loss, dental wear, alveolar bone recession, enamel hypoplasia, and cribra orbitalia. The study was limited in that resource materials from multiple dynasties were combined, and no postcranial skeletal examinations were possible. However, the following matters were found regarding the paleohealth of the ancient Egyptian Qau people: (i) the rate of dental caries was low; (ii) periodontal disease was present and progressed with age; (iii) even so, tooth loss was low; (iv) dental wear was pronounced; and (v) there were no age-related stress markers, and few individuals with serious disease. Overall, based on the Qau people in this data, it can be assumed that the health status was poor, the death rate of newborns, infants, and young children was high, and individuals exhibiting severe stress markers died before reaching adulthood. Ancient Egyptians have long been the subject of much anthropological and archaeological study, and this paper introduces several interesting topics for further investigation concerning the paleoenvironment and paleohealth of these ancient people.