A perfectly preserved piece of pathological poultry.

Here’s something a bit different that just came up; a bird’s humerus! But you wouldn’t be laughing if you found this in your Sunday roast, as there is clearly something wrong with this bone.

Bird’s wing bone with misaligned fracture (c) MOLA 2013

This bone, from the upper part of a bird’s wing, has snapped in half and shifted into the wrong alignment. It was never re-set, and has healed with the two halves side-by-side.

This would have been very painful, but the animal (perhaps a chicken) appears to have survived the ordeal fairly well. The large mass of new bone growth around the break shows that the wound healed during the bird’s lifetime, and the smooth surface of this new growth indicates that infection was minimal. The spines of bone may indicate where muscles were anchored to the new bone, and may mean that the bird could still move its damaged wing, although we doubt it could fly as the wing would have been much shorter.

Spikes of new bone are visible around the break (c) MOLA 2013

Spikes of new bone are visible around the break (c) MOLA 2013

All of this might indicate that the bird was cared for through the healing process, but the story doesn’t end there.

Small cut marks above the break show that the bird was butchered and de-fleshed after healing had taken place. This shows that the Romans weren’t squeamish about eating an animal that would have been visibly injured, and makes us wonder why they might have cared for it for so long only to then eat it.

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One thought on “A perfectly preserved piece of pathological poultry.

  1. I believe that the Romans had egg-laying hens so a good layer would have been valuable and was probably kept inside at night (protected from foxes); so Roman London was just like London today, in this respect at least! and when it got old or stopped laying for some reason, it was killed and boiled up for soup

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