Archeologists Find Evidence of Early Amputations In UK

by Aruna on  May 2, 2009 at 5:50 PM General Health News
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Archeologists Find Evidence of Early Amputations In UK
A team of archaeologists who have determined that bones found at a former hospital in Worcestershire, UK shows evidence of early amputations and other medical research in the 19th century.

According to a report by BBC News, county council archaeologists were called in after workers building the new city university campus found about 200 bone pieces in a pit at the former Worcester Royal Infirmary site.

The old hospital is being demolished to make way for a new campus.

Many of the 19th Century bones had been deliberately cut and were "evidence of amputations in their infancy", according to Simon Sworn, archaeologist and project officer.

The British Medical Research Association (BMA) was founded in the hospital in 1832 and Sworn said that the bones from dead prisoners were among those used for research after this became legal practice.

Sworn said the bones were a rare find.

"It's a very fascinating and important find and appears to show a great deal about early medical practice," he said.

Sworn said an Act of Parliament in the mid-19th Century permitted research on dead prisoners, so bones of former inmates could be among those found.

"It could be criminals or it could be poor people who could not be identified and had no family," he said.

According to Sworn, the bones were from many individuals and included arm and leg bones and fragments of skull and vertebrae.

"They do indicate early anatomical investigations, when people were first dissecting human remains," he said.

"There's evidence of research into varying diseases, such as syphilis, which was widespread at the time. There are bones that have been cut into where the disease had taken hold," he added.

Sworn added there were also animal bones, including those of pigs, found in the pit.

"Some have several saw marks, as if the students had practiced amputations on the animals' bones first," he said.

The bones include a hip joint punctured by a nail which Sworn said could be evidence of an early hip replacement operation.

Worcestershire County Council said its archaeologists were immediately called in after the discovery to "make sure the remains were treated appropriately".

The bones, which were removed under a Home Office licence, are being stored and preserved at the council offices and will be sent to a specialist who is expected to report on their significance.

"The remains are likely to be studied by experts in the history of surgery before reburial," a county council spokeswoman said.

Source: ANI

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