Picking up the pieces: Utilizing the diagnostic potential of poorly preserved remains
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With pressures on time and resources available to those undertaking research in paleopathology, poorly preserved archaeological human remains can often receive limited attention or be completely excluded from the analysis of archaeological sites. Although incomplete skeletons often yield minimal demographic information and can complicate the diagnosis of some pathological conditions, this is not universal. Significant information can be obtained even in partial remains on metabolic bone diseases (where, by definition, the whole skeleton is involved), and for conditions such as osteoarthritis and fractures which can be diagnosed in isolation. We present an example of an incomplete skeleton that provided valuable new information on pathological changes associated with osteomalacia, a condition that has been little studied to date in paleopathology. This skeleton also contributes to our understanding of the factors surrounding the classification of fractures, and provides new insight into the full range of circumstances in which eburnation can develop. This example demonstrates the value of including partial and poorly preserved skeletons in paleopathological analysis and the extent of information that can be obtained.
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