The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Integrating clinical perspectives and bioarchaeological interpretations: Case analyses from Neolithic Çatalhöyük, Turkey


1Department of Anthropology, The Ohio State University, 2Department of Anatomy, The Ohio State University

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It is well understood that bioarchaeological analyses of human skeletal remains require, at a minimum, an intimate knowledge of human osteology. Expertise in the fields of human physiology and soft tissue anatomy, however, along with the ways in which such knowledge might enhance our interpretations of health and lifestyle in the past, are sometimes less appreciated among the bioarchaeological community. In this study, we seek to demonstrate the benefits of integrating information from the clinical literature into bioarchaeological interpretations using three examples from the Neolithic farming community of Çatalhöyük (9400-8000 yBP) in Turkey: 1) a young adult male with fusion of the second and third cervical vertebrae, 2) a young adult female with neuromuscular atrophy of the right upper limb and hand, and 3) a middle adult female with avascular necrosis of the right scaphoid. An understanding of the anatomical and physiological correlates of skeletal manifestations of trauma or pathology can provide insight into the underlying causes of these conditions. Furthermore, by interpreting such cases in light of the ways in which these conditions are prevented or treated among modern populations, as well as the problems that arise in the absence of medical intervention, bioarchaeologists can gain a better appreciation of the impacts these disorders may have had on the health and well-being of individuals in the ancient past. Bioarchaeologists have much to gain from integrating elements of archaeological context, paleopathology, and clinical anatomy in their analyses, and such syntheses provide an avenue for advancing the discipline as a whole.

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