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



Department of Archaeology, Durham University

Saturday Morning, 200DE Add to calendar

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a major public health issue and is the most complicated affliction and management problem in modern medicine. It is the leading cause of death in people under 45, results in multiple disabilities and is among the earliest neurosurgical problems faced by ancient doctors. This indicates that TBI was recognised as a significant health problem from prehistoric times and is worthy of investigation.

The hypothesis tested was TBI survivors demonstrate a variety of disabilities which evidence inequality of access to care and treatment”. Non destructive macroscopic and radiographic methods of investigation were used to identify ill health and disability in TBI survivors and a control group of individuals. Recording methods followed acknowledged good practice standards and findings were compared with current clinical brain injury studies. The study populations came from the medieval cities of York, London and Norwich.

Current findings indicate survivorship of individuals who would not have been expected to survive their injury without modern medical intervention, variance of sharp and blunt force trauma injury patterning between the cemetery populations and the potential marginalisation of some individuals within their community.

In summary, studies of injuries to the cranium and the identification of disability in archaeology has been extensive but limited in scope. Consequently, little is known about the complex and potentially devastating impact TBI had on the victim and the wider community. Therefore, this study of the outcomes of the survivors of TBI has the potential to move research into disability in past populations forward.

Appreciation for the support provided to me during this project is extended to the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) grant reference number AH/H019782/I.

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