The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Compensatory mechanisms of multiple debilitating traumas: a case study from the Oneida State Custodial Asylum in Rome, New York


Department of Anthropology, The Ohio State University

Thursday All day, Plaza Level Add to calendar

While frequencies of traumatic lesions during the historic period in the United States were low (with an average of less than 10 percent of the population exhibiting one or more traumatic lesions), one individual, a 45-55 year old male from the late 19th century who is associated with the Oneida State Custodial Asylum in Rome, NY, exhibits 18 healed traumatic lesions. As some of his injuries were debilitating, the analysis of these lesions and the associated pathologies in the context of his residing in an institutional setting may lead to a greater understanding of the biological and social compensatory mechanisms involved in long term recovery processes.

The skeletal remains of this individual were analyzed using macroscopic visual methods. There are partially incapacitating fractures in his cervical vertebrae and debilitating fractures in the left elbow joint. The fracture to the second cervical vertebra disassociated the dens from the body of the vertebra, which would have hindered head and neck movement. The fracture to the left elbow was the result of blunt force trauma that disfigured the distal end of the humerus and proximal ends of the radius and ulna. The eburnation with grooves in the elbow joint suggests that this individual developed a compensatory mechanism which allowed him to use this joint during and after the healing process. An examination of the potential mechanisms of these injuries as well as the biological and social compensatory mechanisms that allowed this individual to survive and function in an institutional setting will be presented.

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