When archaeological skeletons are assessed, the incidence of trauma forms an integral part of the investigation. The number of fractures observed is interpreted in order to gain insight into the occurrence of interpersonal violence, workload, living conditions, etc. However, the question remains of how these results should be interpreted – i.e., what constitutes high or low levels of trauma. The aim of this study was to investigate the occurrence of trauma in a population of modern Greeks living on Crete, as well as South African (SA) whites and blacks in the Pretoria Bone and Raymond Dart collections. The sample comprises mostly of older individuals (n = 90 - 100 of each sex- population group). Each skeleton was studied for healed trauma. For the vertebrae only spondylolysis were assessed. In Greeks it was found that 42% of the males and 46% of females had at least one fracture, with corresponding figures of 63% and 44% for SA whites and 83% and 69% for SA blacks. Radius, rib and femur fractures were most common in Greeks, with skull, radius and ribs most common in SA whites and skull, ulna and ribs in SA blacks. These incidences of trauma are high, but the composition of the samples (mostly of lower socio-economic origin) should be kept in mind. It may also be questioned whether these individuals reflect the society as a whole. It seems that the fractures in Greeks are mostly related to old age due to falls and accidents (e.g., Colles and hip), while the SA black sample reflects a high incidence of interpersonal violence (e.g., cranial vault and parry fractures). The SA white sample follows an in between pattern. These comparative figures may be useful when assessing trauma in other skeletal populations.
Poster presented at the University of Pretoria Health Sciences Faculty Day, August 2008, Pretoria, South Africa.