Differential diagnosis of a progressive neuromuscular disorder using bioarchaeological and biogeochemical evidence from a bronze age skeleton in the UAE

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Bioarchaeologists frequently rely on differential diagnoses to examine pathological conditions in ancient human skeletons. However, this method is often hindered by the skeleton's limited response abilities, resulting in similar skeletal expressions across multiple diseases. These diseases can be placed into perspective by using stable isotope analysis to explore the life course of an individual. In the current study, strontium, oxygen, and carbon isotope values from the dental enamel of a young (18-20 year old) paraplegic female interred within the Bronze Age Tomb of Tell Abraq are used to explore her life course and give perspective on a previously indeterminate differential diagnosis involving a progressive neuromuscular disorder. This individual's isotope values show that she was a non-local migrant who arrived at Tell Abraq sometime after 15 years of age and that her immigrant status may have placed her at enhanced immunological risk for developing paralytic poliomyelitis. We argue that biogeochemical analysis can be used to go beyond questions of residential mobility to examine the lifeways and broader cultural practices of ancient peoples. © 2015.