COS Professor Discovers Earliest Case of Child Abuse

Dr. Sandra Wheeler, UCF professor and bioarchaelologist, led a group of researchers to the discovery of the first recorded case of child abuse in history. Using a bioarchaeological approach integrating biological, socio-cultural, and physical environments they analyzed a child from Kellis 2, a Roman Period (c. 50-450 AD) cemetery located in Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt. The child, known as B519, lived around 2,000 years ago and is about two to three years of age. The toddler exhibited skeletal fracture patterns consistent with chronic abuse.

Wheeler and fellow scientists meticulously examined each of the multiple fractures on the toddler’s skeleton and compared them with a medical documentation about patterns of injury. They also ran a series of tests on B519, including X-ray work, histology (microscopic study of tissues) and isotopic analyses, which pinpoint metabolic changes that show when the body tried to repair itself.  The results showed a number of bone fractures throughout the body, on places like the humerus, ribs, pelvis and back. Additionally, the injuries were all in different stages of healing, which further supported the evidence of repeated non-accidental trauma.

About Dr. Sandra Wheeler

Dr. Wheeler is an instructor specializing in bioarchaeology. She received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Western Ontario in 2009. Her current research focuses on the bioarchaeological analysis of infants & children to shed light on mortuary practices involving the youngest members of society. This research synthesizes information from the social, cultural and natural environments to gain an understanding of children’s lives and deaths in the past. Wheeler also researches ancient birthing practices, maternal health, growth and development, ancient health and disease, paleoepidemiology, and mortuary landscapes. Her current and upcoming fieldwork examines patterns of health and disease, trauma, and mortuary practices in ancient Egyptian populations.

She joined the UCF faculty in 2010 and teaches Cultural Anthropology, Sex, Gender & Culture, Peoples of the World, Human Species, Human Osteology, Primatology, Archaeological Sciences, Mortuary Archaeology, and Anthropology of the Undead: Mummies, Zombies, and Vampires.

For more information about Shattered lives and broken childhoods:Evidence of physical child abuse in ancient Egypt, please click here.

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