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Survival to amputation in pre-antibiotic era: A case study from a longobard necropolis (6 th -8 th centuries AD)

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Published copy (DOI)

Author(s)

  • Ileana Micarelli
  • Robert Paine
  • Caterina Giostra
  • Mary Anne Tafuri
  • Antonio Profico
  • Marco Boggioni
  • Fabio Di Vincenzo
  • Danilo Massani
  • Andrea Papini
  • Giorgio Manzi

Department/unit(s)

Publication details

JournalJournal of anthropological sciences
DatePublished - 1 Jan 2018
Volume96
Number of pages16
Pages (from-to)185-200
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The Longobard necropolis of Povegliano Veronese dates from the 6 th to the 8 th centuries AD. Among the 164 tombs excavated, the skeleton of an older male shows a well-healed amputated right forearm. The orientation of the forearm fracture suggests an angled cut by a single blow. Reasons why a forearm might be amputated include combat, medical intervention, and judicial punishment. As with other amputation cases reported in literature, this one exhibits both healing and osteoblastic response. We argue that the forelimb stump morphology suggests the use of a prosthesis. Moreover, dental modification of RI 2 shows considerable wear and smoothing of the occlusal surface, which points to dental use in attaching the prosthesis to the limb. Other indications of how this individual adjusted to his amputated condition includes a slight change in the orientation of the right glenoid fossa surface, and thinning of right humeral cortical bone. This is a remarkable example in which an older male survived the loss of a forelimb in pre-antibiotic era. We link archaeological remains found in the tomb (buckle and knife) with the biological evidence to show how a combined bioarchaeological approach can provide a clearer interpretation of the life history of an individual.

    Research areas

  • Amputated forearm, Humeral cross-section, Italy, Medieval, Prosthesis

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