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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 contribution
posted on 19.08.2021, 09:50 by Anna M Davies-Barrett, Charlotte A Roberts, Daniel Antoine
Objective
To investigate the prevalence of maxillary sinusitis in people who lived in the Middle Nile Valley across different periods, cultures, and environmental conditions.

Materials
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).

Methods
Bony changes within the maxillary sinuses, associated with sinusitis and oroantral fistulae were systematically recorded according to pre-established criteria.

Results
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.

Conclusions
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.

Significance
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.

Limitations
Poor preservation of skeletons and a lack of archaeological settlement data for some sites.

Future research
Investigation of a greater range of populations from different environments/climates.

History

Citation

International Journal of Paleopathology Volume 34, September 2021, Pages 182-196

Author affiliation

School of Archaeology and Ancient History

Version

AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Published in

International Journal of Paleopathology

Volume

34

Pagination

182 - 196

Publisher

Elsevier BV

issn

1879-9817

Acceptance date

12/07/2021

Copyright date

2021

Available date

21/07/2022

Language

en