Institute of Archaeology
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Meghan Banton

Diarrhoea, Dysentery, and the Clap: Connecting the Soldiering Lifestyle to Literary and Skeletal Evidence of Reactive Arthritides Induced by Gastrointestinal and Sexually Transmitted Diseases

There are many organisms associated with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and gastrointestinal (GI) infections which are known stimulators of arthritic reactions. For instance, Reactive Arthropathy (ReA) is now attributed to Chlamydia trachomatis, Salmonella, Shigella, Yersinia, and Campylobacter and Septic Arthritis can be initiated by N. gonorrhoeae. It is commonly known that soldiers throughout history were exposed to numerous forms of disease, including STDs and GI infections which are known to cause reactive arthritis. My research examines the history of reactive arthritides among active duty soldiers and will try to determine their frequency among various soldiering populations, both past and present.

In order to understand the history and determine the frequency of reactive arthritides in relation to soldiers, current clinical data, primary and secondary literary resources, and skeletal evidence are utilized. Clinical data is used to define the nature of reactive arthritides and to determine how they can be diagnosed in the skeleton. Primary and secondary resources are used to create a sound argument for why bioarchaeologists could expect to find evidence of reactive arthritides in skeletal collections consisting of soldiers. Finally, bioarchaeological methods will be employed to examine relevant skeletal collections to determine the prevalence of reactive arthritides among soldiers from past conflicts.

Some important subsidiary questions include:

  1. How do reactive arthritides come to affect the joints?
  2. What operational definitions can be used to confidently diagnose these conditions within skeletal remains?
  3. The medical understanding of disease is constantly changing, making it important to remember that diseases may have been understood, described, and interpreted differently in the past; therefore, how does this affect our ability to identify these conditions in historical literature?

What can this information tell us about the palaeopathology and palaeoepidemiology of reactive arthritides?

Supervisors

 Educational background

  • BA, Anthropology , Longwood University, 2011
  • BA, History, Longwood University, 2011
  • Minor, Biology, Longwood University, 2011
  • MSc, Skeletal and Dental Bioarchaeology, University College London, 2012

Bates B., Banton M., Foley A. , and Neeley S. 2010. Cumberland State Forest Archaeological Project Work Plan for 2010-2011.

Conference Presentations:

Northern Neck Cultural Landscapes Symposium at Stratford Hall – 2010. Form and Function of the Colonial Plantation:

Recreating the Cultural Landscape of Nomini Hall.

  • Photo from field school in Astypalaia, Greece
  • View of Acropolis
  • Researching graves in a South Carolina cemetery

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