Biocultural variation of skeletal trauma in contemporary Greeks

  • Abel S
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Bioarchaeological research has highlighted the importance of eco-geographic factors on skeletal trauma frequencies in ancient populations. Clinical research addressing trauma patterns in hospital populations shows that socioeconomic variables such as income, education level, minority/ethnic status, and substance abuse are significantly correlated with overall trauma. Research based on the behavioral mechanism of trauma in contemporary skeletal samples is notably scarce, mainly because of the limited number of available collections. As such, most of these studies are limited to fracture patterns of isolated elements or skeletal regions, and assume that injuries found in certain regions are predictive of overall accidental or aggressive behavior. A collection (n = 121) of fully represented and documented individuals of recent death from Athens, Greece, presented the unique opportunity to test the influence of various demographic, ecological, and environmental variables on individual trauma in a contemporary population. The sample consists of the remains of individuals donated to the Biological Laboratory at the University of Athens where the collection is currently housed for research purposes. Morphological analysis of this sample suggests that most of the skeletal trauma present is the result of cumulative accidental episodes. Observed injuries show no distinct constellations suggesting intentional, interpersonal violence. Significant trauma clustering is seen in the thoracic vertebrae, ribs, radii, and femora of both males and females. However, these injuries are somewhat typical in an aged, osteoporotic population such as the UA sample. Crosstabulations, ANOVA, and loglinear analyses show statistical associations between sex and trauma location, and between sex and cause of death category, and some degree of association among concomitant trauma locations. The UA collection seems to mirror that of contemporary Greek society at large and can be regarded as a subset of a modern society with relatively limited physical aggression. Despite geographic constraints, high unemployment rates, focalized resource competition, and a surging urban population, violent mortality rates in Greece are among the lowest globally. Thus, contrary to socioeconomic stress theories suggested in bioarchaeological and clinical literature, contemporary Greeks do not show increased trauma from assault, abuse, and other violent crimes due to economic and populational stressors.

Author-supplied keywords

  • 0327:Physical anthropology
  • Biocultural variation
  • Forensic anthropology
  • Greeks
  • Physical anthropology
  • Skeletal trauma
  • Social sciences

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  • Suzanne Marie Abel

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