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5 July 2012
Bio archaeology - unfamiliar term?

Is bio archaeology an unfamiliar term to you? Well, with advances in science this term is about to come into common use, as scientific answers are sought to unravel archaeological questions. This particular application of biotechnology centres around the bones of a male, aged 20-30 years, uncovered in a Neolithic cemetery (1700 to 2000 BCE), in northern Vietnam. The official title of the individual in question is Man Bac burial 9 or M9 for short.
     The skeleton was uncovered in a north-south orientation and on his right hand side as opposed to the normal west east axis. But this was not the most intriguing part. Analysis of the bones revealed that this young man was either paraplegic or quadriplegic and had been in this predicament for the last 10 years of his  life, requiring a high degree of care to perform even the most basic functions of his life.
     This is where the bio archaeology comes in. A pair of scientists, Tilley and Oxenham, used a study of this man to produce an article entitled 'Survival against the odds: modelling the social implications of care provision to seriously disabled individuals' which was published in the International Journal of Palaeopathology. They believe that by studying the care needs within the cultural context of his time might help us to understand our own care needs.

Edited from These Bones of Mine (29 January 2012), Past Horizons (June 2012)

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