AHS-P7-3. Blood on the Brain: A Preliminary Investigation of Endocranial Reactions in the Erie County Poorhouse Cemetery

Silvio Ernesto Mirabal Torres1
Faculty Mentor: Jennifer Byrnes, Ph.D.1
1College of Liberal Arts, Department of Anthropology

Tuberculosis (TB) (Mycobacterium tuberculosisis) is primarily a respiratory infection, but it can spread through the blood to other parts of the body as the disease progresses. Tuberculous meningitis (TBM) occurs when the TB pathogen reaches the meninges, most commonly the leptomeninges, causing inflammation and hemorrhaging. In the bioarchaeological record, TB has not been easily diagnosed because many bony manifestations caused by the disease (e.g. visceral rib lesions) can also be the result of other pathologies. Recent research by Spekker and colleagues (2020) has shown that abnormal blood vessel impressions (ABVIs) and periosteal appositions (PAs) on the endocranial bone surfaces could be diagnostic of TBM. To test the viability of using ABVIs/PAs in the differential diagnosis process of tuberculosis in bioarchaeology, this study utilized previously recorded data from the Erie County Poorhouse (ECPH) cemetery. It was hypothesized that: 1. there would be a correlation between these endocranial lesions and visceral rib lesions; 2. Males and females would display endocranial lesion differences; and 3. Older (>35 years) versus younger (<35 years) adults would display endocranial lesion differences. Statistical analyses failed to identify a correlation between these bone lesions (p = 0.491). Additionally, there was no difference in the distribution of the endocranial reactions between males versus females, nor between age categories. Further studies that include other postcranial pathologies related to TB are needed before we discard the use of ABVIs and PAs as supporting evidence to diagnose tuberculosis in the ECPH cemetery or other bioarchaeological collections.

This research was funded by UNLV’s TRIO McNair Scholars Institute, which is housed within UNLV’s Center for Academic Enrichment and Outreach and funded under the TRIO Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program by a grant (P217A170069) from the U.S. Department of Education. 


Nov 15 - 19 2021


All Day


AHS: Poster Session 7
The Office of Undergraduate Research


The Office of Undergraduate Research


2 Replies to “AHS-P7-3. Blood on the Brain: A Preliminary Investigation of Endocranial Reactions in the Erie County Poorhouse Cemetery”

  1. Silvio,

    This is a really interesting topic! I learned a lot about bioarcheology and history by reading your poster. Great job!


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