Breaking the age barrier: Understanding trauma in older adults from the Danish Middle Ages

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Nagengast-Stevens, Elizabeth
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This research undertook osteological methods to assess traumatic lesions in the skeleton with the application of life-course theory and three-dimensional imaging techniques to decipher and permanently record the lesions. The purpose of this research was to decipher patterns of trauma present for adults in medieval Danish samples using more accurate aging techniques. The populations spanned the time-frame from early medieval (11th century) to early modern (17th century) Denmark. During this time in Denmark, the country was establishing trade and commerce that changed farming practices and political and social institutions; all of these changes were expected to provide context to the trauma features seen in the skeleton. For instance, groups were anticipated to differ between urban and rural residents by age and by sex. The results of this study show that trauma rates differed dramatically between male and female groups; male individuals display more traumatic conditions in the skeleton than females. There became key differences in trauma by age group. It is assumed that these groups were more economically active in the community (from 20-41 years-of-age) as they showed the most frequent skeletal injuries. In addition, the oldest-old age group showed an increase in injuries compared to the other age groups. There were no major differences in trauma type or the frequency of trauma between urban and rural locations. This research undertook a pilot study in which it used three-dimensional data collected using NextEngine and CT to better decipher trauma classification. Results showed that the 3D analyses were not as precise at capturing minute details such as fracture margin texture and appearance compared to other technologies used today, such as Micro-CT. The research presented here contributes to our understanding of the bioarcheology of trauma and Danish history. Traumatic lesions in the cemetery samples examined in this study had not been previously investigated; therefore, this research presents preliminary findings that will be helpful in future analyses of trauma in Danish remains housed in the Unit of Anthropology at the Department of Forensic Medicine through the University of Southern Denmark (ADBOU).
Biological Anthropology, Bioarchaeology, Skeletal Trauma, Transition Analysis