9.1.9 Pathology

Dental abnormalities

Bone pathologies among the livestock were relatively minor. They included dental anomalies, such as congenital absence of the lower second premolar, a common, non-harmful condition of ruminant animals often observed in Scottish medieval material. Two instances of this condition, one in medieval cattle and one in post-medieval sheep/goat, were noted at the Green. Reduction of the fifth cusp of a cattle lower third molar, also probably of congenital origin, was noted at 12 Martin's Lane and would have little noticeable impact on the live animal (Context 70, Trench 2).

A more harmful condition, however, was observed in a medieval sheep/goat mandible from the Green. In this jaw, the posterior cusps of the third molar had been eroded away by a carious lesion, probably at the level of the soft tissue of the gum (Area A, Phase 5). At 12 Martin's Lane, a collection of horse upper molars (dissociated from the maxilla) was affected by carious lesions in the occlusal surface. All eight cheek teeth recovered (out of a total possible 12 teeth) were affected by caries, although the degree varied from slight to severe. The most severely affected were the left upper second molar and the right upper first molar. The animal's health was probably adversely affected by this condition, as feeding may have been difficult or painful.

Joint abnormalities

Abnormalities of joint surfaces, such as small interarticular lesions, were common, particularly affecting the proximal and distal articulations of cattle metapodials and phalanges. Interarticular lesions also affected a sheep/goat distal humerus and a horse astragalus (12 Martin's Lane). These lesions are not necessarily pathological and would probably have had no outward effect on the health or appearance of the affected animals.

More serious lesions of the joints were rarer. Osteoarthritis was definitely present in two bones from the Green, a medieval cattle distal metatarsal (Area A, Phase 2a) and a sheep/goat first phalange (Area B, Phase 5). At 12 Martin's Lane, one cattle first phalange showed signs of osteoarthritis: grooving, pitting, slight eburnation (polishing) and extensive new bone growth spreading from the articular area to the midshaft of the bone (Phase 2, Context 186). The animal to which this toe-bone belonged may have suffered from a degree of lameness.

Traumatic damage

Traumatic damage to bone was observed in only one instance, a post-medieval sheep or small ungulate rib in which the midshaft area was composed of woven bone, a sign of a healing fracture (the Green, Area A, Phase 6). Bone fractures can occur during rough handling or herding of animals.


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