Library Dissertation Showcase

An investigation into osteoarthritis in a medieval population

  • Year of Publication:
  • 2022

Osteoarthritis is a prevalent skeletal condition in the historical population, but it still poses several methodological and interpretive challenges. We know truly little about the changes in its prevalence over time. This present study aimed to examine the osteoarthritic changes in the skeletal material from Lincoln (13th – 16th century), contributing to a greater understanding of OA and its prevalence in the past. A total of 31 skeletons recovered from the St Katherines population were examined for the presence of OA. Where the degenerative disease was considered present in a joint, the site was noted and given a grade between 0 (absence of OA changes) to 4 (severe OA). Definitive osteoarthritis was considered present at grade 2 if eburnation on the joint surfaces was found, although of minimal severity. The sternoclavicular joint, pelvis, patella, glenoid fossa, and femoral head were all targeted for OA. In the medieval population from Lincoln, definitive OA (grade 2 or above) were observed in 9.7% of individuals. In the skeletal samples, the greatest number of OA present (86.4%) and highest severity was recorded in the right sternoclavicular joint.┬áThe right patella was the least affected joint (33.3%). The data was statistically analysed, however, no statistical significance between each specific joint was observed. The pattern of distribution identified, on the other hand, may provide insight into medieval OA and whether the distribution has changed over time. Further research should explore OA in medieval populations and the usefulness of classification criteria for diagnosing OA.

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