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Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Scientists Discuss “Bioarchaeology of Care”

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

BERLIN, GERMANY—Science Magazine reports that scientists have gathered at a conference organized by Emmanuele Petiti and Julia Gresky of the German Archaeological Institute to talk about “the bioarchaeology of care,” or how ancient societies may have cared for chronically ill and disabled individuals. For example, Marla Toyne of the University of Central Florida noted the 800-year-old remains of a Chachapoya man found in northern Peru who may have suffered from late-stage adult T-cell leukemia. He would not have been able to do much walking in the mountains where he lived, Toyne explained, and his bones lacked the signs of stress associated with hard work. Bioarchaeologist Anna Pieri said texts and iconography indicate that ancient Egyptians may have considered dwarfism a link to the divine. The remains of people with dwarfism have been found in two 4,900-year-old royal tombs in Hierakonpolis, she added. And, the remains of a man born with a severe cleft palate and complete spina bifida were found in a medieval grave in central Hungary, along with rich grave goods and a horse that had a twisted muzzle, according to Erika Molnar of the University of Szeged. “Was his survival a result of high social rank at birth, or was high rank the result of his deformity?” she asked. The researchers will create a centralized database to share information on such rare conditions. For more, go to “Diagnosis of Ancient Illness.”

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