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

What can radiology contribute to paleopathological examinations of juvenile scurvy?


1Department of Anthropology, McMaster University, 2Department of Anthropology, University of Alberta

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In recent years an increasing number of cases of juvenile scurvy have been reported and contested in the palepathological literature, furthering debates about the possibility of identifying this dietary disorder among past populations. Despite the increasing number of reported cases of juvenile scurvy there remains a distinct lack of accompanying radiographic evidence, a method that is used to diagnose this disorder in living individuals. The notion of using radiography for assessing paleopathological cases of juvenile scurvy has been discussed by a number of researchers, yet has seen little actual implementation. Despite potential limitations, there is evidence to suggest that in circumstances of sufficient preservation and skeletal representation that radiography can serve as an excellent accompanying method to current macroscopic approaches. The use of radiography would allow for comparisons of paleopathological and clinical aspects of this disorder, with the hope of enabling more enlightened assessments of juvenile scurvy in the past. This poster will provide a critical review of the benefits and limitations of radiographic approaches to paleopathological assessments of juvenile scurvy before addressing a case study of several sub-adult individuals from Stymphalos and Zaraka, Greece, who were identified as exhibiting multiple classical macroscopic lesions of juvenile scurvy. The association of these macroscopic lesions with scurvy was further confirmed radiographically based on the observation of Wimberger’s ring, white line of scurvy and metaphyseal radiolucency, three key clinical signs of juvenile scurvy. Such results suggest significant potential for the future use of radiographic imaging in paleopathological investigations of juvenile scurvy.

This study was funded by the University of Alberta, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the Wiener Laboratory of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.

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