chapter  9
29 Pages

TRACES OF INJURY ON THE SKELETON

Most injuries, whether accidental or intentional, do not involve the skeleton at all but only affect the soft tissues. Of course, with skeletonised remains, evidence for soft tissue injury in earlier populations will mostly be lost to us. However, occasionally, soft tissue injuries may leave traces on bones. For example, a haematoma (blood clot) produced as a result of deep bruising of muscle may ossify to produce a bony mass which may subsequently fuse to the adjacent bone. This type of ossification is termed myositis ossificans traumatica (Resnick and Niwayama 1988: 4247-4253), and may be manifest as an irregular bony projection (Figure 9.1a). Dislocation involves disruption of the normal relationship between the components of a joint. Dislocations

Figure 9.1(a)

of long standing may produce changes in the bones, including the formation of a secondary joint surface in an abnormal location. For example, shoulder dislocations normally involve anterior displacement of the proximal humerus so that the humeral head lies against the anterior surface of the scapular wing. In unreduced dislocations, a novel articular facet for the humeral head may form here (Ortner 2003: 160-163) (Figure 9.1b). Scalping was a common feature of

(bi)

Figure 9.1 Opposite: (a) The projecting flange of bone on the shaft of this femur is like by a result of a muscle injury The lesion is termed myositis ossificans traumatica Above: (b) Unreduced anterior dislocation of the left shoulder. The head of the humerus lies against the anterior surface of the wing of the scapula (i), where a secondary joint surface has formed (ii)

(bii)

warfare in North American societies since well before European contact, and is also known from elsewhere (Owsley 1994). Scalping may leave traces on the cranium – cut-marks in the case of unhealed lesions, bony reaction indicating infection in survivors (Smith 2003; Williamson et al. 2003).