Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Dig Down

The earliest and youngest example of an individual with Down syndrome in the archaeological record has been studied and described by French scientists. The skeleton, found at Saint-Jean-des-Vignes, Saône-et-Loire, is that of a 5–7 year old and dates from the 5–6th c. A.D. While the intellectual disabilities of this genetic disorder cannot of course be seen in the bones, the osteological abnormalities are consistent with the diagnosis and include brachycrany, metopism, hypodontia, periodontitis, a flattened occiput, vault thinness, and an open cranial base angle. In layperson's terms, the child (who was too young for the scientists to determine gender from the skeleton) has a short and broad skull, a flattened skull base, and thin cranial bones. The burial, consistent with others in the church cemetery, hints – but does not prove – that Down syndrome was not stigmatized in medieval France.


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