Archeohandi: protocol for a national disabilities database in archaeology in France




disability, osteoarchaeology, database, palaeopathology, preventive archaeology


The archaeology of disability is a relatively recent and little-known approach in France. While the study of palaeopathology now goes hand in hand with funerary archaeology and osteoarchaeology, the French study of disabilities and disabling pathologies remains marginal and unevenly treated, depending on location, chronology and researcher’s interest. This paper focuses on highlighting the compatibility between this new research area, the obligations of osteoarchaeology, and the benefits of developing a national, diachronic, and interdisciplinary study. A database is designed within an interpretive, consensual framework, that can be adapted to overcome limitations and promote open-minded research on the care of the disabled in their own communities. A preliminary category selection of disabling pathologies has been made. These are trepanation, completely edentulous and/or compensating denture, neuronal impairment, severe scoliosis, Paget's disease, Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis (DISH), rickets, dwarfism, infectious diseases, unreduced fracture, amputation, severe degenerative disease and others. This list has been critically reviewed by experts in the field; it will evolve in a somewhat Darwinian fashion. Our database is hosted on the Huma-Num platform, with a management interface and quick access based on multiple tabs. The data includes information about archaeological operations, subjects, and pathologies; it is complemented by pictorial data stored on the Nakala platform. The development involved creating a prototype using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, SQL, and PHP, with features to display, add, modify, and delete operations and subjects. Enhancements have been made, including search optimization, charts, and the ability to export data in CSV format. The database, whose administrative interface can be accessed at, contains so far 211 existing operations with a total of 1232 registered subjects spread throughout metropolitan France. These initial data reveal numerous research perspectives in osteoarchaeology that can be combined with other research topics, such as virtual reality.


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Author Biographies

Rozenn Colleter, Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives

An archaeologist and anthropologist since 1999, she completed her Ph.D. in 2018 under the guidance of Professors N. Telmon and E. Crubézy. She is an associated researcher at the AMIS laboratory (CNRS UMR 5288), with a focus on cemetery excavation, the study of funerary practices, and the biological profiling of populations in the Grand Ouest region of France. In the field, she devises excavation strategies, employing recording, sampling, and selection methods to gather essential documentation. In the lab, she conducts biological analyses of human remains, determining age, sex, examining population recruitment, and identifying discreet features and pathologies. Collaboration with various labs and specialists is integral. To leverage results, she creates relational databases, implements GIS, and uses statistical analyses. Beyond her scientific pursuits, she is dedicated to knowledge dissemination within both specialist circles (conferences, publications, teaching) and the public domain (lectures, outreach).

Cyrille Le Forestier, Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives

Archaeoanthropologist at Inrap, Cyrille Le Forestier works in the Île-de-France region, and more specifically on Merovingian necropolises. Since 2007, he has been scientific manager of the preventive and then programmed excavation of the early medieval necropolis at Noisy-le-Grand. In 2022-2023, as a specialist, he will be in charge of the excavation and study of the burial sites at the Saint-Denis basilica. He participated in creating the online Archéohandi database.

Philippe Blanchard, Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives

Philippe Blanchard is an archaeologist at Inrap, specializing in funerary archaeology for the medieval and modern periods. Scientifically affiliated with the UMR 5199 PACEA in Bordeaux, he focuses on excavating medieval Jewish cemeteries across Europe. Between 1997 and 2019, he conducted extensive excavations at the Châteauroux cemetery (Indre, Centre-Val de Loire). Recently, he and his team completed the comprehensive excavation of a medieval and modern Benedictine abbey in Tours (Indre-et-Loire, Centre-Val de Loire). With a wealth of experience, Blanchard contributes significantly to our understanding of burial practices and medieval religious sites.

Fanny Chenal, Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives

After obtaining a degree in Biology and a Master's in Anthropology from the University of Bordeaux (France), she was hired at Inrap in Strasbourg to investigate human bone remains from preventive archaeology projects in Alsace. For fifteen years, she studied skeletons spanning all chronological periods, from prehistory to the conclusion of the Middle Ages. Since January 2023, she has been working on a thesis focusing on burial practices in Alsace at the end of the Neolithic period.

Anne-Sophie Coupey, Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives

Anne-Sophie Coupey, an archaeo-anthropologist at Inrap in Poitiers, France, conducted research from 2001 to 2014 with the French Archaeological Mission in Myanmar on funeral practices and the social representation of childhood in Southeast Asia according to age groups (PhD obtained in 2008 at the University of Rennes I, France). Additionally, between 2009 and 2011, she contributed to the study of cannibalized bones at the site of Herxheim in Germany. Currently, her primary interests lie in funeral and cult practices as well as the treatment of bones from the Neolithic to Iron Age periods, focusing on her home region, the former Poitou-Charentes.

Sylvie Duchesne, Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives

With archaeological training, she specialized in anthropology at the University of Bordeaux and later at the University of Toulouse, where she obtained a PhD on cultural diffusion based on funerary practices. An anthropologist for nearly 20 years, she has been actively engaged in both fieldwork and anthropological studies, both in France and abroad, spanning from the Neolithic to the modern era. Her primary interests revolve around disability in past societies, the mobility of goods and people, the organization of cemeteries, and the dissemination of culture.

Jean-Luc Gisclon, Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives

Jean-Luc Gisclon, an archaeo-anthropologist at Inrap (Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives) Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, specializes in excavations spanning the Neolithic to the Middle Ages. Notable projects include the 2014 dig at 1 Place Wernert, Lyon 5 e (supervised by E. Ferber, Inrap), and the 2023 excavation on Route des Catons, Le Bourget du Lac. With a focus on uncovering historical and bioanthropological insights, Jean-Luc contributes valuable expertise to archaeological endeavors in the region.

Fanny La Rocca, Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives

Fanny La Rocca is an anthropologist and collaborator in the Grand Est region, working on a temporary basis at Inrap (Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives). Specializing in anthropology, she has made a valuable contribution to the documentation of the database on the archaeology of disability through archaeology in France.

Raphaëlle Lefebvre, Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives

Raphaëlle Lefebvre, archaeo-anthropologist and INRAP (National Institute of Preventive Archaeological Research) project manager in Normandy. She is an associate member of the UMR 6272 CRAHAM at the University of Caen. Her preferred periods are the Middle Ages and the early modern era, but in the context of preventive excavations, she works on periods ranging from Prehistory to the contemporary era.

Jérôme Livet, Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives

As an archaeoanthropologist at Inrap and a member of the 5199-PACEA joint research unit, he focuses on the ancient populations of the Centre-Val de Loire region, with a particular emphasis on those from the early Middle Ages. He is presently finalizing the excavation of a Benedictine abbey in Tours (Indre-et-Loire), along with multiple related sepulchral areas.

Isabelle Souquet, Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives

She is an anthropologist in Aquitaine, studying funerary sites from the Mesolithic to the contemporary period. Her focus is on Protestant cemeteries, and she is currently leading a project in response to the discovery of a mass grave containing 26 soldiers from the Napoleonic period who were killed in the battlefield in Orthez (Pyrénées-Atlantiques).

Florence Tane, Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives

Florence Tane works regularly as an archeoanthropologist for Inrap (Institut National de Recherches en Archéologie Préventive) since 2007. She mainly studies medieval tombs, from archeological survey or digs in the Centre- Val de Loire region.

Aminte Thomann, Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives

Aminte Thomann, an anthropologist based at Inrap in Rouen and a permanent researcher at CRAHAM, UMR 6273, University of Caen, brings fourteen years of experience in studying Norman populations. Having served as an anthropologist and operations manager on sites across southern and eastern France, Aminte's research delves into the intricacies of recruiting individuals into funerary groups, along with assessing the health and epidemiological conditions of medieval and modern populations. With a recent emphasis on health status analysis and paleopathological approaches, Aminte contributes significantly to the field of preventive archaeology.

Ivy Thomson, Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives

Ivy Thomson is an anthropologist in Inrap Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. First and foremost an archaeologist, in the preventive field since 2005, she was recruited as an anthropologist in 2016. Her field of research mainly concerns populations and funerary practices prior to Antiquity, but the preventive framework sometimes leads her to more recent periods.

Émilie Trébuchet, Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives

She is an archaeologist and archivist at the National Institute of Preventive Archaeological Research (Inrap). Her work centers around data management and scientific information. Her research is dedicated to archival images of archaeology, with a particular emphasis on urban contexts.

Marie-Cécile Truc, Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives

She works for Inrap where she serves as an excavation director, specializing in the Middle Ages in northern France. Her primary research focuses on countryside settlements, rural cemeteries, and metal artifacts. She directed and published an excavation at Saint-Dizier, uncovering three exceptionally rich graves dating back to the 6th century. Additionally, she conducts research on medieval diseases such as the Justinian plague and leprosy. For a decade, she directed the excavation of the leprosy site at Aizier in Normandy, France, and is presently engaged in the publication of its findings.

Jean-Baptiste Barreau, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

Jean-Baptiste Barreau specializes in the field of digital archaeology. He is the author of several articles, has participated in conferences, and played a role in various archaeological projects. His research covers diverse topics, ranging from the 3D digitization of historical sites to the use of virtual reality for cultural heritage preservation. His work involves applying different digitization methods for the analysis of archaeological artifacts, such as cut marks on the oldest bone found in Brittany. He has also contributed to projects like the Conservatoire Numérique du Patrimoine Archéologique de l'Ouest (Cnpao), showcasing his commitment to the digital preservation of archaeological heritage. With a focus on interdisciplinary collaboration and a commitment to open science, Jean-Baptiste Barreau's work is centered on advancing archaeological research through innovative digital methodologies. His online CV can be viewed at


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How to Cite

Colleter, R., Delattre, V., Le Forestier, C., Baiet, A., Blanchard, P., Chenal, F., Coupey, A.-S., Desbrosse-Degobertière, S., Duchesne, S., Durin, C., Gisclon, J.-L., Gryspeirt, N., La Rocca, F., Lefebvre, R., Livet, J., Paresys, C., Rouzic, M. ., Souquet, I., Tane, F., Thomann, A., Thomson, I., Trébuchet, Émilie, Truc, M.-C., & Barreau, J.-B. (2023). Archeohandi: protocol for a national disabilities database in archaeology in France. Virtual Archaeology Review, 15(30), 56–79.




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