Friday, March 11, 2011

insomnia = eccentric blogging

For weeks I have rarely fallen asleep with ease, despite many recent nights of catching less than 4 or 5 hours of sleep.  It baffles me, where this insomnia comes from or the nightmares that occur when I do slip into a state of unconsciousness.  I blame it on my Victorian boogeyman.  Maybe he just wants me to blog more.

If that's the case then he got what he wanted.  It's 2 a.m. and I am painting my nails black and blogging about Victorian smokers.  Yesterday on Reuters I came across an article by Stefano Ambrogi about a recent study done on Victorian skeletons froma cemetery in Whitechapel (infamous for its association with Jack the Ripper) by the Museum of London.  According to the article:

[Most of the skeletons]  had "notches" in at least two, and often four, front teeth made through the habitual holding of pipe stems.

image source: Reuters
Osteological analysis of 268 adults buried between 1843 and 1854 found that some disfigurement had occurred in 92 percent of adults exhumed, while wear associated with habitual use of pipes was evident in 23 percent.

"In many cases, a clear circular "hole' was evident when the upper and lower jaws were closed," said Donald Walker, human osteologist at Museum of London Archaeology Service.
 Clay pipes were used for centuries by smokers, and remains of clay pipes are often found at historical sites from the 18th and 19th centuries at least, to my knowledge, in America.  According to an archaeologist I used to work with, clay pipes can even be dated to within ten years of their use by the size and shape of the bowl.  I knew they were used well into the 19th century, but I never associated clay pipes with teeth disfigurement.  The article points out that even young adults had these notches on their teeth, indicating that they started their habit very early.

I wonder how many Victorians ended up dying of lung cancer or other respiratory diseases as a result of their smoking habit.

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