Lecture | Johan Picardt Mini Symposium
Bodies in the Hands of Science
- Tuesday 25 February 2020
2333 CC Leiden
- Central Hall
Warning: During the symposium images will be displayed that can be experienced as graphic.
Scurvy: Dying in the cold world of Spitsbergen
Prior to the Dutch maritime expansion of the 17th and 18th centuries, scurvy was known in the Low Countries as an endemic disease. From the end of the 16th century, the disease started to draw much more attention due to increasing long sea journeys of sailors. Already in the Dutch medical literature of the 16th century, a strong relation was expressed between the prolonged taking of foodstuffs of poor quality and the risk of contracting scurvy. Although from that time, may Dutch physicians recommended oranges, scurvy grass and brook-lime, it took 200 years before inadequate therapy on the fleet was replaced by systematic prevention. Why did the old-time effective recommendations for the therapy of scurvy stay inadequate for mariners? To understand, maritime and medical history were unfolded and evaluated with respect to the paleopathological findings reported on seven winterers who died on Amsterdam Island (1634-1635) and fifty whalers who were buried on the Island of Zeeuwse Uytkijck, Spitsbergen, during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Using forensic taphonomy to shed light on past mortuary practices and contemporary medicolegal cases
In-depth understanding of the taphonomic processes of the human cadaver and the burial environment is crucial to medicolegal investigation of buried human remains in forensic cases as well as to reconstructing mortuary practice in the past. In this presentation I will discuss how forensic taphonomic research, i.e. the study of the decomposition of the human body within its environment, can be used to improve our understanding of death and burial in past populations. Actualistic experiments using donated human bodies provide a unique opportunity to examine taphonomic processes that are of traditional and forensic archaeological significance. I will discuss a series of such experiments, which I have conducted since 2015 at the Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State University. With the help of 3D digital documentation, analysis and visualization methods, the results of these experiments form the basis for testing of existing archaeological methods and models as well as potential development of new methods and models.