Animal Palaeopathology Working Group


Abnormality: A characteristic that is outside of normal anatomical variation.
Acute: A disease or condition that leads rapidly to death, often before the bone has occasion to react.
Alveolar: Relating to the jaw section containing the tooth sockets, the alveolar ridge.
Ankylosis: The stiffening or immobility of a joint resulting from disease, trauma, surgery or bone fusion. The rigidity may be complete or partial, and may be due to inflammation of the tendinous or muscular structures outside the joint or of the tissues of the joint itself. When inflammation has caused the joint-ends to be fused together the ankylosis is termed osseous or complete.
Aplasia: Non-development of bone.
Apposition: The condition of being placed or fitted together.
Atrophy (adj. atrophic): Under-development or wasting of bone.
Avascular: Without adequate blood supply/flow from occlusion of vessels.


Calcification: The process of depositing of lime salts.
Chronic: A disease or condition that is slowly acting over a considerable period of time. These are the types that most often affect the skeleton.
Cortex (or cortical bone): The outer layer of bone that is harder and denser than the cancellous bone it encases.


Deformation: The displacement of bone from its normal position.
Disease: A lack of well being (eg. an infectious disease).
Disorder: An abnormal functioning of part of an organism (eg. a chromosomal disorder).
Distal: The end of the bone furthest from the point of attachment or articulation, or the side of the tooth furthest from the midline of the jaw.
Dysfunction: The loss of normal behaviour.
Dysplasia: The malformation of bone.


Eburnation: Degeneration of bone into a hard, polished, ivory-like mass, such as occurs at articular surfaces of bones in osteoarthritis.
Ectopic: Out of place, as of an organ not in its proper position.
Enthesophyte: An ossified projection of bone deriving from a tendon or ligament.
Exostoses: Formations of new, abnormal, osseous tissue on the outside of the bone.
Extensor: A muscle that extends or straightens a limb or body part.


Flexor: A muscle that when contracted acts to bend a joint or limb in the body.
Foramen: An aperture or perforation through a bone or membranous structure.


Hyperplasia (adj. hyperplastic): An abnormal increase in the number of cells in a tissue.
Hyperaemia: An area of tissue affected by increased blood flow or congestion of blood.
Hypertrophy (adj. hypertrophic): Over-development of bone.


Ischaemia (adj. ischaemic): A loss of blood supply due to a blockage of an artery, caused for example by a blood clot.
-itis: A suffix meaning swollen or inflammed (inflammation).


Labial: The side of the tooth that faces the lips.
Lamellar bone: Slowly forming, highly organised mature bone that consists of parallel layers.
Lesion: A term used originally to describe an injury, but now used generally to describe all disease changes to organs and tissues. Lesions may have sharp ('geographic') or rounded margins that relate to the duration of the lesion forming process. Sharp margins indicate an aggressive or recent occurrence, while rounded margins suggest a more chronic occurrence. Inactive or remodelled lesions are healed, while active new bone formation suggests active infection at time of death. Scalloped margins are formed when a number of 'punched out' lesions coalesce into a continuous ring.
Lingual: The side of the tooth that faces the tongue.
Luxation: A complete dislocation of a joint
Lysis (adj. lytic): A bone destroying lesion (osteoclastic activity).


Malformation: Disturbed development leading to abnormal appearance, dysplasia.
Mesial: The side of the tooth closer to the midline of the jaw.


Necrosis: Bone death resulting from the loss of blood supply to a bone or region of bone.


Occlusal: The chewing surface of the tooth.
Occlusion: A blockage.
Osteoblastic: Relating to bone formation.
Osteoclastic (syn. osteolysis): Relating to bone destruction.
Osteogenesis: The formation of bone.
Osteophyte: A projection of ossified bone (spicule) around an articulated surface.
Osteopenia: A decrease in bone matric formation, used to describe thin bones in radiographs, a general term used to describe a loss in the amount of bone.


Palmar: Of, relating to, or corresponding to the palm of the hand.
Permeating/Perforating lesion: A destructive lesion that penetrates the cancellous bone, having destroyed the cortical bone surface.
Periosteal: Relating to the periosteum.
Periosteum: The membrane which invests bone. Increase in bone diameter is accompanied by new bone formation on its internal surface.
Plantar: Of, relating to, or occurring on the sole of the foot.
Proximal: The end of the bone nearest to the point of attachment or articulation, or the side of the tooth furthest from the midline of the jaw.


Radio-opaque: A term used to describe the dense white (sclerotic) areas on a radiograph that represent more dense areas of tissue.
Radio-lucent: The black (less dense) or blue (somewhat more dense) areas observed in a radiograph.


Sclerosis (adj. sclerotic): Pathological hardening or thickening of tissue.
Subluxation: A partial or incomplete dislocation of a joint.
Striated cortical bone: Cortical bone that possesses striae and suggests a healing stage in bone during which the grain of the bone is re-established.
Syndesmophyte: A bony bridge linking a fibrous joint.


Ventral: Toward the belly.

Credits: Dr C Knusel, Biological Anthropology Research Centre, University of Bradford. and Stephanie Vann, School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester.