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Durham University

Department of Archaeology

All Research Projects

Ms Julie Peacock

Research Topic

Disability and traumatic brain injury (TBI) in Britain: AD1066 - AD1600


1) Hypothesis

"TBI survivors demonstrate a variety of disabilities which evidence inequality of access to care and treatment".

2) Objectives

Assess TBI survivors for evidence of ill health and disability;
Determine the impact of health and social care innovation and development on TBI management;
Synthesise findings from skeletal analysis, medical and cultural developments to determine if TBI survivors were excluded or integrated into society;
Identify indicators of TBI and disability.

3) Context

The term disability indicates social or physical discrimination against people who have impairment. Its study is complex but worthwhile as it provides rich data about public health and attitudes to at risk people. As there is evidence of what is interpreted as survivorship of people with a physical restriction(s) in skeletal remains and this finding has been of interest to Archaeologists in the past. However, efforts to investigate this subject have been impeded by a lack of reliable skeletal information and interpretation. This situation has now improved and research interest has re-emerged (Hawkey 1998:326-340). However, there is little study outside the historical literature on what was viewed as disability and how active people with disability were in medieval England. This research aims to drive this agenda forward.

4) Contribution to knowledge and understanding

Nursing and bioarchaeological studies have not addressed the vast and complex impact of TBI and linked this with clinical data. This research is a unique and original opportunity to study a long term historical perspective on disability, its care and how this might have changed through time. Evidence of survival from complicated head fractures indicates care has been given to people following injury in the medieval period but this has not been studied in an Archaeological context. Consequently, this study can contribute to our knowledge of medieval views on the care and treatment of people with head injuries and determine if historical evidence is giving us a misconception of how disability was viewed in the past.

5) Bibliography

Hawkey, D.E. (1998) Disability, Compassion and the Skeletal Record, International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, 8: 326-340.

Research Groups

Is supervised by

Scottish Soldiers Project

Cooperating with the Palace Museum in China