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Keywords:

  • skeletal dysplasia;
  • dwarfs;
  • dwarfism;
  • pigmy;
  • achondroplasia;
  • ancient Egypt;
  • osteogenesis imperfecta;
  • short stature;
  • mummy;
  • disability

Abstract

The ancient Egyptian civilization lasted for over 3000 years and ended in 30 BCE. Many aspects of ancient Egyptian culture, including the existence of skeletal dysplasias, and in particular achondroplasia, are well known through the monuments and records that survived until modern times. The hot and dry climate in Egypt allowed for the preservation of bodies and skeletal anomalies. The oldest dwarf skeleton, the Badarian skeleton (4500 BCE), possibly represents an epiphyseal disorder. Among the remains of dwarfs with achondroplasia from ancient Egypt (2686–2190 BCE), exists a skeleton of a pregnant female, believed to have died during delivery with a baby's remains in situ. British museums have partial skeletons of dwarfs with achondroplasia, humeri probably affected with mucopolysaccharidoses, and a skeleton of a child with osteogenesis imperfecta. Skeletal dysplasia is also found among royal remains. The mummy of the pharaoh Siptah (1342–1197 BCE) shows a deformity of the left leg and foot. A mummified fetus, believed to be the daughter of king Tutankhamun, has scoliosis, spina bifida, and Sprengel deformity. In 2006 I reviewed the previously existing knowledge of dwarfism in ancient Egypt. The purpose of this second historical review is to add to that knowledge with an expanded contribution. The artistic documentation of people with skeletal dysplasia from ancient Egypt is plentiful including hundreds of amulets, statues, and drawing on tomb and temple walls. Examination of artistic reliefs provides a glance of the role of people with skeletal dysplasia and the societal attitudes toward them. Both artistic evidence and moral teachings in ancient Egypt reveal wide integration of individuals with disabilities into the society. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.