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Anthropological Exhibition in Mexico City Examines Ancient Diseases in Bones
Two skulls which are part of the exhibition 'The prints of the bones. An approach to physical anthropology' in Mexico City, Mexico. One hundred and fifty American natives bones pieces from the Ice Age to the XX Century are exposed since 18 August to January 2011 at the Palace of the Medical School of the Mexican capital. EPA/Hector Montano / INAH.

MEXICO CITY.- In bones, like in paper and photographic film, the history of what happened remains; those who “read” these imprints are physical anthropologists and they have discovered diseases of other eras. This knowledge is captured in the exhibition “La Huella en los Huesos. Un Acercamiento a la Antropologia Fisica” (Prints on Bones: An Approach to Physical Anthropology), recently inaugurated at Palacio de la Escuela de Medicina, in Mexico City Historical Center.

Vertebrae, skulls, ribs, jawbones, radius and ulnas are part of the 150 osseous items exhibited with traces of different diseases that go back to the remains of the first dwellers of the continent up to 20th century samples. Some correspond to extinct populations such as the Ice Age one, like the skeletons of the earliest humans in America: Mujer del Peñon and Hombre de Chimalhuacan.

Parting from marks and deformation of bones, the show not only reveals diseases but their evolution, as well as techniques used by different cultures to heal them, informed physical anthropologist Jose Concepcion Jimenez, curator of the exhibition.

Alfonso de Maria y Campos, general director of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), inaugurated the exhibit and remarked that science at INAH reveals an important universe of legacy, such as the Osteological Collection, safeguarded by the Direction of Physical Anthropology (DAF).

Accompanied by Enrique Graue Wiechers, director of UNAM (National University of Mexico) Faculty of Medicine, the INAH officer remarked that this osteological heap is the only one in Mexico that guards Prehispanic dwellers’ rests, making the work at DAF unique in the international level.

“The exhibit “La Huella en los Huesos” is an approach and homage to work conducted by generations of physical anthropologists who silently have contributed with relevant information for great archaeological and historical investigations”, expressed De Maria y Campos.

Anthropologist Jimenez pointed out that an illness detected in Mesoamerican population is Syphilis. Skeletons with traces of the disease have been found in the entire Mexican territory, confirming it existed in America before the Spaniards arrived.

Diseases that extended during Colonial times due to changes in sanitary conditions of indigenous populations as well as viruses imported from Europe are present in samples recovered in the Metropolitan Cathedral and diverse public works.

The skull of a contemporary Otomi woman from Guanajuato is exhibited. It is unique because it belonged to an adult that suffered oxicephaly, a rare congenital disease that provokes death during childhood. The skull was recovered by anthropologist Nicolas Leon, who knew the person while she still lived.

The exhibition will be open until January 2011 at Palacio de la Escuela de Medicina, 33 Brasil St., Historical Center of Mexico City from 10:00 to 18:00 hours. Admission is free.

"Prints on Bones" | Palacio de la Escuela de Medicina | Mexico City Historical Center | Jose Concepcion Jimenez |

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