A Neolithic Case of Mesomelic Dysplasia from Northern Switzerland



Paleopathological cases of skeletal dysplasias (SD) are particularly interesting from a biological as well as biocultural perspective. Evidence of SD is relevant when discussing the antiquity of specific mutations, as well as the social perception of disease in the past. Here we propose a differential diagnosis for a Neolithic case of SD and discuss the possible social correlates of the observed condition. The subject of this study, a child with an age at death of about 12 years from the Late Neolithic site of Schweizersbild (Northern Switzerland), presents a bilateral shortening of the forearm and lower leg, with no further modifications affecting the cranial and postcranial skeleton. Morphological, metric, as well as radiographic analyses point to a diagnosis of Léri Weill dyschondrosteosis (LWD), making the present case the earliest known paleopathological example of this condition. From a biocultural perspective, the skeletal changes affecting the child, together with her/his relatively advanced age, suggest active support from the community, providing new data to inform the debate on the cultural dimensions of disease in prehistory. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.