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

Cholesteatomas: The Application of Paleopathologic and Forensic Anthropologic Knowledge from a Classroom


College of Arts and Sciences: Department of Justice Studies, Florida Gulf Coast University

Friday 38, Clinch Concourse Add to calendar

This presentation discusses the identification of a skeletal pathology used to construct the biological profiles of two unknown skeletons. While this presentation discusses cholesteatoma etiology and symptomology, we draw attention to the importance of student training via a scholar-practitioner teaching model spanning nearly four decades.

Cholesteatomas arise as a congenital defect, secondary to a traumatic injury or develop due to a chronic bacterial or viral infection of the inner ear. Beginning as a squamous epithelial cyst that may mark the petrous pyramid, auditory ossicles, mastoid process; the condition presents as a lytic lesion.

In 2011, we evaluated the unidentified remains of a presumed Cuban national whose body was discovered in Marathon, Florida. During analysis, the first author noted what appeared to be a cholesteatoma on the right temporal, superior to the external auditory meatus. It showed signs of lytic activity; yet, outward sclerotic margins suggested little exudation of fluids, a common symptom of a cholesteatoma. This observation immediately brought to mind a 1972 case study concerning Dr. William R. Maples’ first forensic anthropology case. The Maples case was integrated into the forensic anthropology curriculum established by Walsh-Haney. Therefore, two generations of scholar-practitioner training blended together classroom learning and the application of knowledge towards actual practice. Maples positively identified the European American male based upon his knowledge of cholesteatoma symptoms which include otorrhea seepage. While the pathology of the cholesteatoma in the Cuban national does not appear to be as virulent as that found in Maples’ case the diagnoses were similar.

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