Laboratory of Forensic Anthropology, Centre for Functional Ecology, Department of Life Sciences, University of Coimbra, Portugal; Centro de Investigação em Antropologia e Saúde, Department of Life Sciences, University of Coimbra, Portugal. Electronic address: [Email]
The aim of this work is to discuss the frequency of traumatic bone injuries in a quite unique skeletal assemblage of enslaved people from Valle da Gafaria, Lagos, Portugal (15th-17th centuries). In all, 30 males, 58 females, and 15 individuals of unknown sex were included in the study. The skeletal remains were macroscopically observed for traumatic lesions. When present, the traumatic bone injuries were classified as having occurred ante or perimortem. The antemortem lesions were also studied through radiological analysis. Traumatic lesions were identified in 11 men (36.7%), 23 women (39.7%) and two individuals of unknown sex (13.3%). From these 36 individuals, 61.1% presented antemortem trauma, 25.0% perimortem trauma and 13.9% exhibited simultaneously ante and perimortem trauma. The mechanism of all traumatic injuries was blunt force trauma. From the 9965 analysed bones, 186 exhibited traumatic lesions (87 antemortem, 97 perimortem, and two with both ante and perimortem lesions). The bone more affected by antemortem trauma was the 5th right intermediate foot phalange (40.0%) and by perimortem trauma was the skull (11.4%), probably related to accidents and interpersonal violence, respectively. When analysed by sex, the only significant differences were found in the skull and the right 5th proximal foot phalanges, men (57.1%) presenting more lesions than women (15.4%). The obtained results are consistent with an arduous life, corroborating historical sources which document labour accidents, physical punishments and hard work in the populations of slaves.