Paget's Disease in an Archeological Population


  • The authors have no conflict of interest


The aim of this investigation was to study the prevalence and distribution of Paget's disease in an archeological population. Paget's disease, first described over 100 years ago, is a well-recognized chronic disorder involving abnormal bone turnover with established radiological features. Prevalence within modern populations varies both within individual countries and between them. Paleopathological examples are uncommon and sporadically reported both from Europe and the Americas and from many periods of history. A large skeletal assemblage (2770 individuals) from Barton on Humber, UK, provided an opportunity to examine the prevalence of Paget's disease in one area of the northern England over the period 900-1850 AD. All bones were examined visually for evidence of Paget's disease of the bone (PDB) and all abnormal bones were examined further by plain radiography. Fifteen cases of probable Paget's disease were found. The overall prevalence was 2.1% in those aged >40 years. The prevalence before 1500 AD was 1.7% and post-1500 AD was 3.1%. The distribution of disease mirrored modern disease, with the lumbar spine, pelvis, and proximal femur being the commonest sites. The prevalence of Paget's disease in the United Kingdom over the last 1000 years has been assessed. Although there is a trend of increasing prevalence, this did not reach statistical significance. This is likely caused by the small sample size, but this is by far the greatest number of cases of PDB described in a single skeletal assemblage to date. The distribution of lesions within the skeleton is unchanged.