Ancient injury recidivism: an example from the Kerma period of ancient Nubia



A topical trend in clinical research has been the study of repeat trauma, referred to by clinicians as “injury recidivism,” which lends itself to the assessment of accumulated injuries among ancient people. The present investigation examined the healed injuries among two archaeological skeletal samples from the Kerma period (ca. 2500–1500 BC) of Sudanese Nubia. Both groups were known to have a high prevalence of multiple trauma—80% of 54 adults from the rural sites (O16 and P37) located near Dongola and 42% of 212 adults from the urban site of Kerma sustained nonfatal injuries. It was observed that a higher frequency of multi-injured adults displayed one or more violence-associated injury (cranial trauma, parry fracture). When all injuries were considered 38% of individuals with violence-related injuries had other traumatic lesions in contrast to 22% of individuals who experienced injuries associated with accidental falls (e.g., Colles', Smiths', Galeazzi, and paired forearm fractures), although this difference was not significant. When only the skulls and long bones were evaluated 81% of adults with multiple injuries to these major bones bore one or more violence-related injuries, while 60% of adults with single injuries sustained violence-related injuries. Most individuals with multiple injuries were male and less than 35 years of age; there was no significant difference in the frequency of violence- or accident-related multiple injury between the rural and urban communities. Although it cannot be established whether or not some of an individual's injuries were experienced during simultaneous or independent incidents, the pattern of multiple injury among these two ancient Nubian skeletal samples reflected the profile of injury recidivism observed by modern clinicians cross-culturally. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.