General Information, Pathologies

Faunal Pathologies and the Puzzles They Pose

Authored By: Shannon Clark ’18 Zooarchaeology Lab Social Media Intern

Faunal pathologies are the effects of disease or injury on animal bones. The pathologies, or bone deformations, we find on animal bones give us IMG_0023insight into the life path of that animal. Patterns in bone abnormalities, and the contrasts and similarities between them, can inform us about environmental conditions, population health, and human involvement with animals .

In our Zooarchaeology lab, we identify pathologies in animal bones when we analyze the faunal remains excavated from archaeological sites. Some of these pathologies have known origins: injuries for example, result in distinctive anomalous bone growths. Other bone pathologies are more difficult to source.. Understanding these abnormalities involves a great deal of research and investigation, beginning sometimes with what we know about the formation of bone pathologies in humans. Zooarchaeological pathology research often crosses disciplines and involves discussion with veterinarians, veterinary texts research, and researching the results of earlier archaeological faunal analyses.

The study of zooarchaeological abnormalities in birds is complicated by the fact that pathologies sometimes are overlooked. This can happen because of limited time to perform analyses or because the identification of pathologies is not relatable to the research taking place. For whatever reason, there is a lack of avifauna pathology reference material for comparison during zooarchaeological analysis. In our lab, Ariel Taivalkoski is working to first identify, then define the source cause for pathologies.

Her process begins by identifying pathologies on bird bones. She photographs each pathology to create a comparative, visual data set which will later serve as a comparative collection for her work and research in other Zooarchaeology labs. Pathologies reveal secrets of the past that would otherwise remain unknown. As with any scientific research the answer to questions requires patience and determination. Stay tuned into our blog for further posts on the pathologies as we uncover them here in the UB Zooarchaeology Lab.



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