Any regular reader will know that I am particularly interested in physical impairment in the archaeological record, and the implications of this for the individual themselves and for the society that the person lived in. Too often in the archaeological and osteological literature the individual care needs of those with physical impairments are cast aside. As such it is with great pleasure that I highlight here the launch of a new online application entitled the Index of Care, as a key part of Tilley’s new Bioarchaeology of Care methodology (2011).
A recent article (1) by Tilley (2014) in the International Journal of Paleopathology introduces the Index of Care – an instrument still in the early testing phase which has been designed to help people think through the identification and interpretation of skeletal evidence for health-related caregiving in the archaeological record.
The Index, which leads the user through the four stages of bioarchaeology of care analysis, is the brainchild of Australian National University researcher Lorna Tilley (who was interviewed on the methodology for this blog last year). Tilley says that, while she has tried to embody the theory of the bioarchaeology of care approach in the instrument and has found it useful in her own work (2011, 2012), she considers the Index itself an experiment. ‘As far as I’m aware, this is the first time in bioarchaeology that an instrument for examining a behaviour as sophisticated as caregiving has been attempted.’ This is, in my eyes, what is very much needed when the osteologist considers what implications evidence of pathology may mean for the individual and society.
In particular Tilley emphasises the fact that the Index offers a framework for analysis – it is not a formula. The researcher works through the stages of the Index to help produce a framework of care.
Tilley states that ‘the Index is designed for flexibility, users decide what parts of the Index are relevant to their specific case study – and ignore the rest. They decide how they want to use the Index – whether as a prompt to remind them of variables they could be considering in their research, or for detailed recording of evidence and conclusions reached, or anything in-between.’
The Index of Care can be found online here and Tilley encourages all archaeological researches to give the Index a go. The Index of Care is currently in active development and feedback is highly sought after to improve its design and operation. Those contributing to this project will be acknowledged in subsequent versions for their help and efforts.
(1). It should be noted that I am named in the acknowledgments of the article for providing some early feedback on the article.
Tilley, L. & Oxenham, M.F. 2011. Survival against the odds: modeling the social implications of care provision to seriously disabled individuals. International Journal of Palaeopathology. 1: 35-42.
Tilley, L. 2012. The Bioarchaeology of Care. The SAA Archaeological Record: New Directions in Bioarchaeology, Part II. 12 (3): 39-41. (Open Access).
Tilley, L., & Cameron, T. 2014. Introducing the Index of Care: A web-based application supporting archaeological research into health-related care. International Journal of Palaeopathology. 6: 5-9.