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


Degenerative joint disease and osteoarthritis in an Etruscan skeletal sample dating from the VIII century to the I century BC

ELIZABETH S. WILLIAMS1, ROBERT R. PAINE1, MARIOLINA CATALDI2, FLAVIA TRUCCO2, RITA VARGIU3 and ARTHUR C. DURBAND1.

1Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work, Texas Tech University, 2Soprintendenza Archeologica per l'Etruria Meridionale, 3Istituto Italiano di Antropologia

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Middle-late period Etruscans were an Italian Iron Age community dating between 800 and 0 BC. They controlled the Mediterranean coast from Rome to Volterra and in-land to Perugia, Italy. Most scholars agree that the Etruscans diverged from the earlier Villanovan community who settled this region 1100-800 BC, bringing iron technology to Italy. Paleopathological assessment of Etruscan burials, housed in the National Etruscan Museum of Tarquinia, offers insight into their health. This presentation focuses specifically on the frequency of degenerative joint disease (DJD) and vertebral osteoarthritis (OA) found among the Etruscans. This information is compared to Imperial Roman burials from Urbino, Italy. Of the 278 Etruscan specimens examined, 56 females and 86 males have at least one joint that could be assessed; while 16 females and 27 males have vertebrae available for examination. DJD and OA frequencies are compared between males and females for each joint. Sex specific patterns of DJD and OA are also explored. Results show that while both Etruscan sexes show similar frequencies of DJD and OA in most joints, males show higher frequencies of DJD in their feet and OA in their cervical vertebrae than do females. The Etruscans show lower frequencies of DJD and OA for males and females than do the Imperial Roman burials from Urbino. Implications of these findings for interpretations of Etruscan and Italian history will be discussed.

This project was made possible in part by the 2010 Neven Lamb Scholarship and Travel Grant, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX.

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