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Written by: Elizabeth Moore
Wednesday May 7, 2014

When identifying faunal remains (bones, teeth, shells) from archaeological sites, I occasionally see evidence of pathology on the bones. Trauma, infection, and disease can all leave their marks on bones in the form of missing bone tissue, bony overgrowth, and misaligned and healed bones. I’ve seen broken and healed limbs where the limb healed as much as 180 degrees out of alignment, mandibles that are missing sections of bone where there was an infection around a tooth that caused the bone to decay, and excessive bony growth from a trauma, injury, or disease. This box turtle carapace exhibits signs of an injury. The arrow is pointing to an oval shaped area that is slightly indented – you can see where the carapace broke in that oval shape and then healed along the break. We know that this happened while the turtle was alive because the carapace has healed. We don’t know how this happened – the turtle could have fallen onto a rock, or another animal may have stepped on it. However it happened, the turtle survived this injury. 

Examination of pathology on a turtle carapace indicates that the carapace was broken and healed while the turtle was alive. Then somebody probably ate it.

This turtle carapace was recovered from an archaeological deposit. Turtles have been eaten by many cultures throughout time, so it is not surprising that we find them in archaeological deposits. I frequently find turtle remains with other animal bones and teeth that are the remains of butchering, cooking, and eating meat. In addition, turtle carapace are often modified to be used as cups, bowls, scoops, and rattles. This carapace exhibits no sign of further modification for use as a tool so it is most likely simply food remains. Turtle soup anyone?

Tags: Archaeology, Dr. Elizabeth Moore, Research and Collections