Date of Award

12-2014

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Anthropology

First Advisor

Dr. Jacqueline Eng

Second Advisor

Dr. Bilinda Straight

Third Advisor

Dr. LouAnn Wurst

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access

Abstract

In recent years, a large number of biomedical studies have demonstrated that the bacteria that contribute to periodontal disease can migrate outside the oral cavity, causing a host of systemic infections. Yet, to date, only one bioarchaeological investigation has addressed this co-occurring disease process in a past population. The results of this thesis confirm the bioarchaeological visibility of the correlation between oral and systemic disease based on data derived from a sample of white and black adults from the Robert J. Terry Anatomical Skeletal Collection. Vertical recessions and porous remodeling of the alveolar crest were examined to identify periodontitis. Periosteal lesions on the femur, tibia and fibula were used as indicators of non-specific, systemic disease. As in a previous study of periodontitis and periostitis in a medieval British cemetery, a significant correlation between these disease processes in the Terry Collection sample is reported, suggesting the importance of further work on co-occurring disease processes in skeletal remains. Furthermore, not only are rates of periostitis and moderate-to-severe periodontitis significantly higher among black individuals than white, but the severity of each disease process is significantly more severe in the black sample. These results offer an example of the physical embodiment of structural inequality, highlighting the complexity of disease states as existing in a dialectical relationship with social processes.

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