Chapter 15. Congenital Anomalies

  1. Ron Pinhasi PhD Lecturer in Prehistoric Archaeology member2 and
  2. Simon Mays PhD Human Skeletal Biologist Visiting Lecturer member Secretary3
  1. Ethne Barnes PhD, MA, BSN physical anthropologist and palaeopathologist consultant independent researcher former

Published Online: 27 DEC 2007

DOI: 10.1002/9780470724187.ch15

Advances in Human Palaeopathology

Advances in Human Palaeopathology

How to Cite

Barnes, E. (2007) Congenital Anomalies, in Advances in Human Palaeopathology (eds R. Pinhasi and S. Mays), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9780470724187.ch15

Editor Information

  1. 2

    Department of Archaeology, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland

  2. 3

    English Heritage Centre for Archaeology, Fort Cumberland, Eastney, Portsmouth PO4 9LD, UK

Author Information

  1. Tucson, Arizona, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 27 DEC 2007
  2. Published Print: 14 DEC 2007

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780470036020

Online ISBN: 9780470724187



  • morphogenesis;
  • embryology;
  • skeletal


Morphogenesis, the embryonic development of the body, is key to understanding the way in which congenital skeletal anomalies arise. In this contribution, each anatomical region of the skeleton (the skull, and the post-cranial axial and appendicular skeleton) is discussed in turn. An account of the morphogenesis of each area is given, and some of the principal skeletal anomalies that arise from disturbances of normal morphogenesis are described and illustrated. Genetic factors are the most important cause of most congenital skeletal anomalies. A major part of the biocultural significance of these variants arises from the information that their study in excavated skeletal remains can reveal about relationships between individuals and populations in the past. This point is illustrated with examples drawn from the palaeopathological literature. The chapter concludes with a consideration of possible future directions for research in this area.