Animal Palaeopathology Working Group

The APWG committe would like to thank Jeanette Wooding for writing the following review. Abstracts of the conference can be found here, while the conference proceedings have recently been published.

The third international conference of the ICAZ Animal Palaeopathology Working Group (APWG) entitled, ‘Recording strategies and analytical methods in animal palaeopathology: practices, possibilities and problems’, was held from 6th-8th September at the Department of Anatomy and Physiology, Lithuanian Veterinary Academy, Kaunas, Lithuania.

Palaeopathology is a well-established field of research within human osteoarchaeology employing standardised methodologies and recording protocols; however, the same cannot be said for archaeozoology. The primary aim of this conference, therefore, was to engender discussion concerning the theory and practice of recording and analysing incidences of palaeopathology in relation to the study of archaeological faunal assemblages.

A group of 30-35 delegates from all over Europe and beyond ranging in both background and expertise attended the conference. This meant that representatives with research expertise in archaeozoology, human osteology, and human and veterinary medicine, shared ideas and voiced opinions within the two main session themes: methods in animal palaeopathology and case studies in animal palaeopathology.

On the opening day, following the completion of the APWG committee meeting, the afternoon was devoted to discussing various pathological specimens that were brought along by numerous delegates to the workshop session. This workshop provided a valuable opportunity to not only handle pathological bones but also draw upon the expertise and differing research backgrounds of the conference group.

This first day concluded with a very enjoyable evening reception. Traditional Lithuanian food and drink were sampled with entertainment provided by the well-known folk ensemble ‘Kupole’. This reception proved to be a tremendous icebreaker as many of the delegates were unexpectedly called upon to participate with the traditional Lithuanian folk dancers! As professors danced with students and students danced with specialists and everybody tried in vain to keep up with the members of ‘Kupole’, new friendships were instantly forged and already established friendships and associations more permanently cemented. This was a wonderful way in which to officially start the conference, making the atmosphere of the next two days both light hearted and relaxed. The reviewer unfortunately was unable to participate with the dancing, as she was fully absorbed with the very important task of holding the camera!

Day two saw the official opening of the conference with Assoc. Prof. Rimantas Jankauskas providing a very insightful keynote lecture concerning both human and animal palaeopathology. This lecture set the scene nicely, highlighting the fact that although there are differences in both human and animal pathologies, much can be learned from their mutual study. Oral presentations based upon the methods employed in the study of animal palaeopathology followed, with very informative contributions from Stephanie Vann (the introduction of a new generic recording methodology), Monika Martiniakova and colleagues (the use of histology to identify pathology in bone specimens), Don Brothwell (the problems that can be encountered when undertaking differential diagnosis), László Bartosiewicz (the use and integration of published data in animal palaeopathology and the importance of description followed by diagnosis) and Richard Thomas (the different ways in which animal palaeopathology can be interpreted). Through the presentation of a variety of case studies, new methodologies were introduced and the value of interpreting palaeopathology in different ways demonstrated. A number of these papers also shared a common emphasis on the necessity of detailed description followed by differential diagnosis.

The afternoon’s oral contributions along with the final days morning session centred upon the presentation of specific case studies. These included papers from Erika Gal (pathological lesions in the domestic hen), Torstein Sjövold and Anne Karin Hufthammer (the identification of pathology among artiodactyls and perissodactyls), Jan Storå (the use of a specific skeletal lesion present in the sacroiliac joint as a method for the determination of sex), Jan Storå and Lembi Lougas (the identification of bone pathology in both modern and prehistoric seals), Theo Antikas (fracture management in horses), Petras Maciulskis and colleagues (a detailed look into the presence of sidebones in horses) and finally Richard Thomas (the welfare of traction animals). These case studies, like the specimen workshop the day before, presented the opportunity for discussion as well as providing insight concerning the diversity of pathology types being identified from different periods of time all over Europe and beyond. They also demonstrated the wealth of information that can be gained through the study of palaeopathology, including: animal husbandry patterns, animal welfare and even the determination of sex in seals. These discussions often spilled over into the breaks, enabling the sharing of opinions and ideas over coffee and cake!

A wide range of research was also represented at the poster session including the presentation of case studies, new methodological approaches and current research projects. Contributions spanned many different types of pathological alteration including oral pathology, pathology in relation to infectious disease as well as traction and trauma related pathology. The poster session enabled valuable contacts to be made as well as highlighting the wealth of research currently being devoted to the study of animal palaeopathology.

Overall the conference was a great success, reiterating the growing interest in animal palaeopathology and emphasising the need to record it in a consistent and standardised manner. It was tremendously encouraging to see both the progress within this field of research and the mixing of opinions from different specialists and researchers. All that is left to say is a big thank you to all at the Lithuanian Veterinary Academy in Kaunas for their tremendous hospitality and hard work in organising both the conference and the entertainment, with special thanks to Prof. Linas Daugnora and his team of research associates and Dr. Richard Thomas at the University of Leicester. Finally, thank you to all of the delegates who attended and contributed to the conference making it both extremely informative and enjoyable.

Jeanette Wooding

AHRC Researcher

Division of Archaeological, Geographical and Environmental Sciences (AGES)

University of Bradford