Developmental Fusion of the Malleus and Incus in a Late 19th-Century Case of Aural Atresia


Correspondence to: Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, S7N 5E5.



A pathological condition, aural atresia, was discovered associated with human remains recovered from a late 19th-century Catholic cemetery 2 km south of Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada. Aural atresia, a congenital condition that results in a non-existent external auditory meatus, was apparent on the right temporal bone of the remains of a young adult male. A complete osteological and contextual assessment, which included the use of a SkyScan 1172 micro-CT scanner on the pathological incus that was recovered, indicated that the right incus and malleus had fused during early embryological development. The artifacts associated with this individual included a pocket mirror that may have represented a connection to the practice of oralism due to the discouragement of sign language by the authorities in that time period. The combination of advanced bone imaging and a complete contextual analysis suggests a differential diagnosis of nonfunctional hearing associated with the right ear, and the individual may have used a different means of communication. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.