An Infant Femur Bearing Cut Marks from Roman Hambleden, England



A perinatal infant skeleton from the first–fourth century AD Roman villa site at Hambleden, England, shows what appear to be cut marks on the proximal part of the right femur. Gross, microscopic and micro-computed tomography evaluations suggest that they occurred perimortem and were probably caused by a non-serrated blade. The reason for the cuts is uncertain, but their location is consistent with the practice of embryotomy, as described in classical sources for obstructed labour due to a dead or dying foetus in a breech or leg presentation. If this interpretation is correct, this case represents a rare example of embryotomy in the palaeopathological record. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.