This paper outlines the rationale and means by which palaeopathological data might be recorded. However, the recording of palaeopathological data is not an end in itself. If such evidence is to contribute to archaeology as a whole, then it is necessary to frame research questions, raise hypotheses and consider all of these while collecting data (Roberts and Cox 2003, 383). Consistent and accurate recording of palaeopathological evidence, together with consistently quantified prevalence rates (O'Connor 2003, 195), will not only permit the production of temporal and geographical syntheses, but it will also enable animal palaeopathology to make a genuine contribution to some of archaeology's big questions: when do animals begin to be used for traction during the Secondary Products Revolution? What patterns of abuse, and also veterinary care, of animals can be charted over time? How have zoonotic diseases such as tuberculosis evolved, when did they first appear and how did they spread? Questions such as these have implications not just for the animals themselves, but also for the human societies they are part of. Consistent recording and synthetic studies of palaeopathologies will also enable the significance of particular lesions to be assessed and thus stimulate more detailed research into those conditions whose aetiology is not yet fully understood.
© Internet Archaeology
Last updated: Wednesday 8th November 2006