January 18, 2016

Bodies, bodies, everywhere!

Filed under: Forensic archaeology, Mummies — acagle @ 8:25 pm


Abstract: The total number of individuals in this series is nine. This includes: three adults, one adolescent, two children and three infants. Two of the adults have some muscle tissue but no internal organs while the third adult has some desiccated organs present. The adolescent has some soft tissue and with vestiges of a perineum. All three infants have essentially all soft tissue and organs. One female has displacement of the pubic symphysis and pitting of the preauricular sulcus consistent with childbirth. This individual also revealed perimortem fractures of the ilia near the sacroiliac joints. Seven out of nine individuals show clear evidence of strangulation.

There’s a bit more to the abstract. There’s not a lot of information on the context, however, so we don’t really know if this is in some sort of religious area or what. But, you know, not a happy time.

November 23, 2015

Medical archaeology

Filed under: Forensic archaeology, Public Health — acagle @ 8:11 pm

Syphilis widespread in Central Europe even before Columbus’ voyage to America

(Vienna ) In 1495, a “new” disease spread throughout Europe: syphilis. Christopher Columbus was said to have brought this sexually transmitted disease back from his voyage to America.

At least, that has been the accepted theory up until now. Using morphological and structural evidence, researchers from the Department of Forensic Medicine and the Center for Anatomy and Cell Biology (bone laboratory) at MedUni Vienna have now identified several cases of congenital syphilis dating back to as early as 1320 AD in skeletons from excavations at the cathedral square of St. Pölten, Austria “The discovery clearly refutes the previous theory,” say study leaders Karl Großschmidt and Fabian Kanz of MedUni Vienna.

I’m not entirely sure that was the “accepted theory”, I always thought it was conjecture-ish. I haven’t seen any critiques of this yet, so at this point it’s just another data point.

And hey, I thought white people wouldn’t cut up and analyze anything but aboriginal skeletons.

June 24, 2015

Battlefield archaeology

Filed under: Battlefield archaeology, Forensic archaeology, Historic — acagle @ 7:20 pm

Archaeologists plan to investigate burial site which could re-write 7th century Battle of Hatfield

The battle which killed England’s first Christian king, Edwin, has long been accepted to have taken place at Hatfield Chase near Doncaster. But the Battle of Hatfield Investigation Society believes that the Pagan victory over the Northumbrians, in 632, could actually have been carried out in a Nottinghamshire village.

Suggesting that the connection with Doncaster exists primarily through word of mouth, they say there is a lack of evidence documenting the burials. Instead, they are seeking £10,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to explore a site in Cuckney.

It’s unfortunate the old burials were lost. Paleopathology!

Also saw this while I was there. Some kinda interesting reconstructions.

June 23, 2015

The pig. The Crime.

Filed under: Forensic archaeology — acagle @ 7:07 pm

College students in Ohio seek to solve murdered pigs mystery

Sitting in a shallow grave and using a tongue depressor to scrape congealed fat off a foul-smelling pig carcass, University of Akron student Paige Dobbins is in hog heaven.

She, along with other UA and Kent State University students, are under blue tarps deep in the woods, trying to figure out how a couple of unlucky pigs met their demise — one body missing its head and feet.

They know it was a homicide. Dead pigs just don’t bury themselves, you know. They’re just not sure how the crime was committed.

That’s actually pretty neat. I like how it makes sure you know this:

The students wear gloves while working with the carcasses.

May 27, 2015

CSI: Sima de los Huesos

Filed under: Forensic archaeology, Paleoanth — acagle @ 7:10 pm

Scientists Find Evidence For 430,000-year-old Murder

A wound on a 430,000-year-old skull may be the brutal evidence of one of the first cases of murder in the hominin fossil record. The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, analyzed the remains of 28 individuals in a Spanish cave site and found further evidence for early funereal practices.

The site—known as Sima de los Huesos—has puzzled archeologists for many years. No one really knows how the remains of the 28 individuals, which belong to a Neanderthal clade, got there in the first place. The remains of the individuals date back to the Middle Pleistocene. Researchers went to the Sima de los Huesos, found within an underground cave system, to investigate the mystery and were ‘surprised’ by the results.

It certainly is a funny one, if they’re right about the same object whacking him twice. Certainly suggestive of a weapon, unless there’s something occurring naturally that’s bilaterally similar like that. The idea of a half-million-year-old hit doesn’t really surprise me, I’m really sure that the second someone decided they could knock off an antelope with a rock they probably decided they could also do the same to their buddy Thak.

March 5, 2015


Filed under: Battlefield archaeology, Forensic archaeology — acagle @ 8:26 pm

Archaeologists discover remains of medieval knight with extensive jousting injuries

A study of the bones of 700 people unearthed at Hereford Cathedral in England has shown that one may have been a medieval knight. Archaeologists noted many broken bones, some knitted, on the skeleton of a man whose remains were unearthed. They believe the man may have sustained the injuries jousting.
The cathedral’s graveyard was excavated from 2009 to 2011. Other skeletal remains drew the notice of scholars: Was one woman’s hand severed because she was a thief? Was the man suffering from leprosy buried around the same time that the bishop of Hereford suffered from the same disease? The skeletons date from the Norman Conquest of 1066 A.D. to the 19th century.

As they say, it’s difficult to pin down how the injuries actually occurred so ‘jousting’ is a handy hypothesis in the absence of any direct evidence linking him to that particular activity.

As an aside, I’ve been reading Ivanhoe lately. I was supposed to read it in high school or something but I probably skimmed it, or just read the Cliff’s Notes version. Quite enjoyable now. I’m starting to think it was the template for nearly every Hollywood action/adventure movie ever made.

March 3, 2015

They did that

Filed under: Egypt, Forensic archaeology — acagle @ 8:14 pm

More on the violent death of Pharaoh Senebkay
Pharaoh Woseribre Senebkay, who lived during the later part of Egypt’s Second Intermediate Period (ca. 1650–1550 BCE), is now the earliest Egyptian pharaoh whose remains show he died in battle. Detailed analysis by Dr. Maria Rosado and Dr. Jane Hill of Rowan University has documented an extensive array of wounds on Senebkay’s skeleton showing he died aged 35-40 years old during a vicious assault from multiple assailants. The king’s skeleton has an astounding eighteen wounds that penetrated to the bone. The trauma includes major cuts to his feet, ankles, knees, hands, and lower back. Three major blows to Senebkay’s skull preserve the distinctive size and curvature of battle axes used during Egypt’s Second Intermediate Period. This evidence indicates the king died violently during a military confrontation, or in an ambush.

That’s actually a pretty good article. I was confused by the lower limb injuries (especially the feet) but if he were on horseback (did they ride like that?) it makes some sense: hit the parts you can reach and then finish him off with head shots when he’s on the ground. War wasn’t pretty. Well, not like it ever is.

February 9, 2015

I was hoping there’d be more

Filed under: Cemeteries, Forensic archaeology — acagle @ 2:12 pm

Huge burial site from before 2 thousand years will be analysed by specialists

The largest necropolis from the Roman period in Karczyn in Kujawy is the object of detailed scientific research. Funds received from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage will allow to complete the analyses, that will determine the diet, kinship and origin of the dead buried in the cemetery.
Excavations in Karczyn were conducted in 2002-2010 by the Archaeological Expedition of the Institute of Prehistory, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. From the very beginning, scientists understood that they were dealing with a unique place.

Only like 120 burials and they seem to be not just elites. Can’t tell how many of the 120 are actual burials and how many are cremations (which you can’t get much from). One would assume they’re doing full demographic and pathology.

February 4, 2015

Lost civilization yet another famous dead body. . . .found?

Filed under: Cemeteries, Forensic archaeology, Historic — acagle @ 7:56 pm

Did Archaeologists Just Find Miguel de Cervantes, 400 Years After His Death?

Family crypts all over Europe contain mummies, valuables—and a hodgepodge of random bodies. Between the high death rates of days gone by and lax record-keeping, it’s often difficult to determine who lies in any given vault. That’s what happened to Cervantes: though his will stipulated that he be buried in a Madrid convent, his final resting place was never known for sure.

But that might have changed this weekend, when archaeologists found pieces of a casket with Cervantes’ initials in a crypt at the Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians. The find was clustered among the bones of at least ten individuals, one of whom could be Cervantes. Coffin-makers used metal tacks to form the initials “M.C.” on a now-brittle, decaying piece of wood.

They’re just popping up all over the place these days.

January 26, 2015

I’m afraid I couldn’t not post this

Filed under: Forensic archaeology — acagle @ 8:21 pm

Mysterious Murder Of 724-Year-Old Italian Warlord Solved By Analyzing His Poop

Okay, I just linked to that one for the headline. The better story is HERE

A study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science has finally solved the sudden and unexplained death of Cangrande I della Scala.

The Italian warlord (who was also a patron of famed poet Dante) was born in 1291, eventually becoming the most powerful ruler in the history of Verona when he took charge in 1311. In 1329, the victorious warrior was planning to take over yet another territory, the Treviso region, but following his success, he fell violently ill — some stories blame it on drinking toxic spring water.

On July 22, 1329, he died at the age of 38. Rumors quickly spread that the triumphant king had been poisoned.

Cangrande’s body was exhumed in 2004, 675 years after his death, and was found to be extremely well preserved. In fact, along with signs of arthritis, tuberculosis and possible cirrhosis, researchers also found regurgitated food in his throat and traces of fecal matter in his colon and rectum.

They found medicinal herbs in his colon along with a plant pollen said to be poisonous. Photos show the “mummy” which is in really pretty good condition without(?) having been deliberately preserved. Interesting to compare the coffin carving with what’s really inside, too.

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