Some of the human remains in the collection have less for us to go on than those we have blogged about previously.
One such example is the human remains contained in a box marked ‘Eldred Avenue’ in Brighton. The only paperwork accompanying them were handwritten notes recording that they were ‘presented by Sgt James (of Brighton Police ?) and ‘Found [in] 1956’ in ‘Eldred Avenue, off Dyke Road, B’ton’. Interestingly, the notes show that the human remains were originally thought to be of ‘Anglo Saxon’ date but this had subsequently been crossed-out and changed to ‘Neolithic?’, however, it is not known at this point what either of these dates was based upon.
The Eldred Road box contained the remains of two individuals who we assessed as a probable male aged 30-45 years and a probable female aged at least 18 years.
Also found with the human remains was a cow’s metatarsal (foot) bone. These do feature in Neolithic burial practice but we don’t know if this bone was actually buried with the human remains from Eldred Road and, as there were no other finds with the human remains, radiocarbon dating would be needed to find out when these two people lived.
We didn’t find any evidence of illness in the fragmentary remains of the female skeleton but we did find that the male skeleton had suffered from some health issues. The only teeth remaining for us to examine were a loose upper molar and premolar. Pictured below is the view of the roof of his mouth from below. Most of the teeth were lost from the skeleton after he died, however, all but one of his lower molars and all three upper molars on the right (his left) in the photograph were lost while he was still alive. Here you can see that the bone has grown over the sockets afterwards, as happens to us today when dentists remove our teeth. The roof of his mouth itself is pitted with little holes which is evidence that he suffered an infection in that area, probably following on from a dental infection, all of which was probably rather unpleasant for him.
We also found that this man had osteoarthritis in his right elbow and and both shoulders, which would have caused him pain and discomfort as it does for people today who commonly develop this condition as they grow older. We can also tell from his arm and leg bones that an infection had prompted a new outer layer of bone to grow on them.
These two individuals are not the only ancient human remains in the collection to have been passed on to the museum by the Police. It would be interesting to find out a bit more about them but this will take a bit more detective work.
Andrew Maxted, Curator (Collections Projects) and Dawn Cansfield