Original paper

Paleopathologies of the Vertebral Column in Medieval Skeletons

Hofmannn, Maria Ines;Böni, Thomas;Alt, Kurt W.,Woitek, Ulrich;Rühli, Frank J.

Abstract

Paleopathological data provide valuable information about health,longevity and mortality in earlier human populations.We investigated the incidence of spinal pathologies on 54 individuals ( 1045 vertebrae and 18 sacral bones) that belong to a medieval skeletal series discovered in the Dalheim monastery (Northwest Germany) and compared them with contemporary and recent populations.The skeletons were analyzed with anthropological methods (sex and age determination),by macroscopic inspection,and,if pathologies of the spine and the sacrum were visible,also by X-ray.We investigated evidence of trauma,specific and nonspecific infectious diseases,joint diseases,tumors,and congenital as well as metabolic disorders.Radiocarbon determination of four samples of different specimens was also undertaken revealing a historic dating of ca.1050 AD.The most common pathological findings were degenerative changes of the spine found in 29 individuals ( 53.3 %).Examples of infections of the spine were rare ( 0.8 % of all vertebrae).There were no cases of traumatic injuries of the spine.The prevalence of spondylosis deformans,the most commonly found type of pathology was found to be higher in the lumbar region,in males as well as in individuals of low stature.

Keywords

Bone pathologyspondylosis deformanssacrumspina bifidavertebral column