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The Index of Care for Bioarchaeologists

The skeletal remains of Man Bac Burial 9 used as the first case study for the model. Image taken from http://www.indexofcare.org/About.aspx

The skeletal remains of Man Bac Burial 9 used as the first case study for the model. Image taken from http://www.indexofcare.org/About.aspx

I was looking through some past articles from the International Journal of Paleopathology when the following title caught my eye: ‘Introducing the Index of Care: A web-based application supporting archaeological research into health-related care.’ 

A quick read through the article supporting this application indicates that it aims to do what it says on the tin! Currently there is a lack of insight into the care giving in relation to the prehistoric lifestyle and this aims to address that. The application provides worksheets and guidance on how data should be collected and analysed if there is evidence of human remains who have some form of disability. The concluding paragraph of the article states that it is ‘not designed to produce precise answers to complex questions of past healthcare provisions…But the index is intended to help researchers think through these question constructively and creatively.’ (Tilley & Cameron 2014 p.8)

The index is broken down into four stages/steps which include 1) describing, documenting and diagnose the pathology. 2) Determine the disability, its impact on the individual’s daily activities and functional ability. 3) To derive a ‘model of care,’ i.e. the implication of the disability and the types of support and care needed in order for the individual. Finally there is step 4) the interpretation of the environment, lifestyle and the form of care. In other words the conclusion and story behind the individual and their disability.

This sounds like an interesting idea, if anything to create a database of disabilities and pathologies that were present in prehistoric populations. I would be wary how far some people may go  when completing the final step , but then I come from a background which heavily relies on facts and evidence and avoids making far-reaching scenarios. However, to give credit to the creators of the application they do say with regards to step four that researchers may choose to ignore it, as some  may find it uncomfortable with this level of interpretation.

The Index is currently at its the early beta stage of development and testing. It will be interesting to keep an eye on it and see how it is received by bioarchaeologists out in the field. Unfortunately I am not one so I can’t comment on how well the index works so far – but if there are any of you out there who are let me know what you think! To use the application you can freely access it through this website, where you must register and then go on to create a new case study.

There’s also an interview with Lorna Tilley from These Bones of Mine  about her work. This is also worth a read to a get more personal view of the model.

Reference:

Lorna Tilley & Tony Cameron (2014) ‘Introducing the Index of Care: A web-based application supporting archaeological research into health-related care.’ International Journal of Paleopathology, Volume 6: 5-9, ISSN 1879-9817, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpp.2014.01.003. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1879981714000266)

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