Osteoarchaeological evidence for leprosy from western Central Asia

Authors

  • Soren Blau,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Archaeology, Flinders University, and Department of Anatomical Sciences, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia 5005, Australia
    • Department of Anatomical Sciences, Medical School North, University of Adelaide, South Australia 5005, Australia
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  • Vadim Yagodin

    1. Department of Archaeology, Flinders University, and Department of Anatomical Sciences, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia 5005, Australia
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Abstract

Published reports of palaeopathological analyses of skeletal collections from Central Asia are, to date, scarce. During the macroscopic examination of skeletal remains dating to the early first millennium AD from the Ustyurt Plateau, Uzbekistan, diagnostic features suggestive of leprosy were found on one individual from Devkesken 6. This adult female exhibited rhinomaxillary changes indicative of leprosy: resorption of the anterior nasal spine, rounding and widening of the nasal aperture, erosion of the alveolar margin, loss of a maxillary incisor, and inflammatory changes in the hard palate. While it is unclear whether the bones of the hands and the feet from this individual were absent as a result of collection strategy or poor preservation, lesions affecting the tibia and fibula were recorded, and the ways in which they may be related to a diagnosis of leprosy are discussed. This is the first skeletal evidence of leprosy from Central Asia and raises questions not only about the spread of the disease in the past, but also about the living conditions of what traditionally were thought of as nomadic peoples. Am J Phys Anthropol 126:150–158, 2005. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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