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Holey goat bones!

Using radiography to image goat bones with an odd pathology.

X-rays of goat bones, during experiments with exposure values. The bone on the left has a pathology seen as a hole in the joint, the bone on the right does not. Unfortunately, these holes were found to be too small to be seen clearly on x-ray.

I've teamed up with Dr Ellie Williams from the archaeology department at Canterbury Christ Church University to investigate some goat bones with odd holes in their elbow joints (within the distal portion of the humerus). The pathology has already been reported within academic literature, but so far there hasn't been any radiological investigation as yet. Using the x-ray equipment at Canterbury Christ Church University, we conducted some imaging to explore what could be seen.

Holey Goats: Multiple Cases of Supratrochlear Foramina in the Humerus of Caprines from the New Kingdom Pharaonic Town of Amara West, Northern Sudan

Eleanor Williams, Jaco Weinstock & Neal Spencer

The bones are around 3000 years old, recovered from Amara West in modern Sudan. My first task was to figure out how to x-ray dry bones. What exposure values do I use? I decided to concoct a little experiment with varying voltage (kV) and current (mAs), imaging the same bones a few times with different combinations. After a while, we decided upon a low tube voltage (low power, kinetic energy of the x-rays) and a healthy level of tube current (i.e. a fair amount of x-rays).

The equipment set up for an x-ray of the path/non path bones.

After the short session, we decided that x-rays do not adequately demonstrate the abnormal holes in the bones, but the exercise had been useful to learn how to image dry bones. Also, an unexpected benefit was the use of x-rays as a triage tool to identify bones with soil infiltration.

A selection of bones with the pathology. The bone on the far right has a dense material that indicates soil infiltration.

Further investigation is required. Perhaps micro CT is needed, as the holes are very small, around 1-3 mm in size. X-rays could be used to screen the bones for soil infiltration, thus helping to select the correct specimens for further imaging.

Images: Goat bones!

Reproduced with permission from Canterbury Christ Church University.

All images are subject to copyright, permission for reproduction must be requested from the author.

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