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Time to be nosy: Evaluating the impact of environmental and sociocultural changes on maxillary sinusitis in the Middle Nile Valley (Neolithic to Medieval periods)
journal contributionposted on 19.08.2021, 09:50 by Anna M Davies-Barrett, Charlotte A Roberts, Daniel Antoine
To investigate the prevalence of maxillary sinusitis in people who lived in the Middle Nile Valley across different periods, cultures, and environmental conditions.
481 skeletons from 13 sites, curated at the British Museum, London, were analysed. The sites ranged in date from the Neolithic to Medieval periods (c. 4900 BCE–CE 1500).
Bony changes within the maxillary sinuses, associated with sinusitis and oroantral fistulae were systematically recorded according to pre-established criteria.
There were significant differences in the prevalence of maxillary sinusitis between time period/subsistence economy groups. The Neolithic hunter-gatherer/early agricultural group had the lowest prevalence, whilst the urban group demonstrated the highest frequency of the disease.
Factors involved in the development of maxillary sinusitis are manifold and complex. However, the results indicate that increased aridity in Sudan in later periods and intensification of agricultural practices may have played a role in increasing prevalence of the disease. Urban environments, including crowding, poor sanitation, and industrial air pollution, could also have influenced susceptibility to maxillary sinusitis.
Prior to this paper, the impact of arid environments on respiratory health in the past had received little attention despite growing clinical research on the topic. Both arid and urban environments are predicted to expand in the future. This paper provides a deep-time perspective on an issue of increasing concern today.
Poor preservation of skeletons and a lack of archaeological settlement data for some sites.
Investigation of a greater range of populations from different environments/climates.