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Title: Treponematosis in Pre-Columbian Jamaica: a biocultural approach to the human cranium found in Bull Savannah
Authors: Santos, A. L. 
Gardner, M. T. 
Allsworth-Jones, P. 
Keywords: Taíno; Caribbean; Cranial modification; Paleopathology; Diet; Caries sicca
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Elsevier
Abstract: The first inhabitants of Jamaica are now generally referred to as Taínos. It is likely that they arrived in the island after about 650 AD and were extinct by the end of the 16th century. In 1968, during the exploration of a small cave in Bull Savannah, St. Elizabeth parish, Dr. James Lee found two skulls, teeth, bones, and pottery. The aim of this work is to interpret in a biocultural perspective the one cranium with pathological lesions, such as caries sicca. This adult individual had an artificially modified cranium, a cultural practice common among Taínos, which was studied macroscopically and by radiological and computerized tomography. The radiocarbon dates, obtained by AMS, point to the 10th-11th centuries AD and the stable isotopes analysis revealed either the ingestion of a mixed C3/C4 plant diet or an extensive intake of marine resources, the former being more likely. This is the first cranium to be found in Jamaica with evidence of Pre-Columbian treponematosis, most probably syphilis, which has also been demonstrated in a few cases elsewhere in the Caribbean region. This finding agrees with the ethnohistorical narrative, according to which syphilis existed among the native population, who used plant extracts to treat the disease. This paper contributes to our knowledge about the Taínos and the history of treponematosis in the Americas.
DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2012.06.001
Rights: openAccess
Appears in Collections:I&D CIAS - Artigos em Revistas Internacionais
FCTUC Ciências da Vida - Artigos em Revistas Internacionais

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