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arry Martin?s major contribution to paleopathology was his ability to simply issues to their basics and eliminate confounding
considerations. That ideology led to evaluation of bones surfaces to identify the mechanism of observed alterations.
The stimulus to this study was a major problem compromising advancement of our understanding of disease through time:
Recognition of alteration of surface appearance had proven a major challenge to students of physical anthropology, be they at
the origin or at the culmination of their career. This is exemplified by the Irene Mound reports, wherein some anthropologists
reported periosteal reaction in 100%; others, in none. While taphonomic alteration (cortical abrasion) and reactive changes
(periosteal reaction) are clearly distinguishable on the basis of thermodynamic characteristics, there is merit to identification of
direct observational approach.
As vocabulary has yet to be developed to distinguish the surface alterations, perhaps it is useful to consider them as
pitting phenomenon and consider the individual components as pits. However, the term pit is so variably applied as to be
incomprehensible in its meanings, rendering it undecipherable. Closer examination of surface defects seemed appropriate.
Abraded cortical bone and that affected by taphonomic processes and others with surface pathology were therefore examined by
epi-fluorescent microscopy and the surface defects/apertures contained within, characterized.
Taphonomic processes which altere bone simply expose intracortical bone in a planar manner. The related damage is
visualized as adjacent channels and thin walls with flat, non-remodeled surfaces. Surface defects of vascular origin have a very
characteristic appearance with internal bifurcation. This contrasts with the elevated rings surrounding Sharpey fiber insertions.
Pathologic bone affected by periosteal reaction is characterized by confluent, well-defined, deep circular or elliptical holes and
serpentine surface channels. New bone typically in-filled holes in a similar manner to that seen with healing trepanation. Vascular
accompany new bone formation and provide insight to the pathophysiology of the thermodynamic results. Serpentine surface
channels producing a filigree appearance characterize infections produced by pus-producing organisms.
Close examination of surface defects/apertures should allow students of bone (e.g., paleontologists) to distinguish taphonomic
and pathologic damage. For clarification of a major challenge in evaluation of bone in the absence of soft tissue, distinguishing
taphonomic and pathological damage, it turns out that the answer is in the holes.
Bruce M. Rothschild graduated from New Jersey College of Medicine in 1973. He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, American
College of Rheumatology and Society of Skeletal Radiology and elected to the International Skeletal Society. He has been recognized for his work
in Rheumatology and Skeletal Pathology where his special interests focus on clinical-anatomic-radiologic correlation, data-based paleopathology,
evolution of inflammatory arthritis and tuberculosis and management of inflammatory arthritis. He is widely recognized for his contributions to
understanding radiologic manifestations of rheumatologic disease.He has been a Visiting Professor at universities in the US, Canada, the Carribean,
South America, Europe, the Middle East, South Africa, Asia and Australia and has been an invited lecturer at universities, hospital and museums
throughout the world.
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