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Cranial Trauma and Treatment: A Case Study from the Medieval Cemetery of St. Mary Spital, London

Cranial Trauma and Treatment: A Case Study from the Medieval Cemetery of St. Mary Spital, London

By Natasha Powers

International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, Vol.15:1 (2005)

Abstract: Excavation of the cemetery of the medieval priory of St. Mary-without-Bishopsgate, Spitalfields, London from 1998–2001, recovered the remains of over 10,000 individuals. Following initial assessment, skeleton 19893 was found to have suffered three cranial injuries caused by a sharp edged implement. The remains were those of a middle aged adult male of around 172.4 cm in stature, truncated at the hips by a later feature. The remaining elements were well preserved. The cranial injuries were well healed, suggestive of some degree of post-traumatic care. Evidence of possible surgery was also found. Soft tissue complications would undoubtedly have followed the assault. Battle related trauma was considered, together with evidence of treatment. Whilst the demographic profile of the individual fitted a plausible one for a professional fighter of the medieval period, no firm evidence of occupation could be provided. The case study indicates both the ability of medieval people to survive major trauma and the wealth of information full analysis of the Spitalfields assemblage will provide the osteological community.

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