« The silence of the lambs. A paleoepidemiological approach for the identification of “murrain” in archaeological deposits » (communication orale)
“Murrain” and epizootic disease have undoubtedly been cause for animal mortality at least since the advent of animal domestication and have therefore represented a major concern for agro-pastoral societies for just as long. These mass animal mortalities, however, seem almost absent from the archaeological record. Our research focuses on developing an interpretative framework for the understanding of animal carcass accumulations, in order to evidence the existence of epizootic animal mortalities in archaeological sites and to suggest diagnostic hypotheses as to the cause of death involved. This presentation, based on several case studies of ovine mortalities, exposes the methodology we have adopted and demonstrates that when rigorously conducted, a paleoepidemiological approach based on the cross-referencing of bio-archaeological data and of medical historical sources can lead to the probable identification of pathogens involved in archaeological animal mortalities
« From the womb to the tomb. A medieval case of maternal and foetal mortality following a dystocic calving » (poster)
Annelise Binois et M. Lançon
This poster presents an archaeological case of dystocic calving having led to the death of both cow and calf. The two animals were found buried together in a single pit on the medieval site of Téteghem-Carlines 3 in northern France, excavated in 2012. The location of the foetal skeleton, wedged in the maternal pelvic canal, leaves little doubt to the cause of both deaths, and the examination of the foetal positioning allows us to diagnose a foetal malposition as the origin of the dystocia. We describe the exact nature of the malposition and discuss the medical options that could have been used to bring about a happier conclusion to the calving. Although dystocia was probably not an uncommon cause of death in archaeological cattle, similar cases are exceedingly rare in the archaeological record. A single other occurrence appears to have been described, on the British Iron Age site of Gussage All Saints , and is presented here. These two cases offer a vivid and touching picture of animal life and death in early farms, and provide valuable information on obstetric knowledge and practices in ancient times.