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Paget's disease in an Anglo-Saxon.

Medical History
Cambridge University Press
Publication Date
  • Research Article
  • Biology
  • Medicine


Short Articles PAGET'S DISEASE IN AN ANGLO-SAXON by CALVIN WELLS* and NICHOLAS WOODHOUSE SUMMARY A RECENTLY excavated skeleton from an Anglo-Saxon burial ground at Jarrow Monastery is described. Virtually all the bones are abnormal, having the morpho- logical and radiological features of Paget's disease. It is one of the most convincing examples in the annals of palaeopathology and confirms the antiquity of this condition. INTRODUCTION Osteitis deformans (Paget's disease) was described as a clinical entity less than a century ago' but examination of skeletal remains has since revealed that the disease has existed from neolithic times. As early as 1889 Hutchinson2 described an affected portion of a parietal bone removed from an ancient Egyptian tomb and, although the specimen cannot now be traced, his description of it leaves little doubt as to the diagnosis: "The bone is much thickened and composed throughout of fine porous tissue. Its surface is rough and marked by fine arborescent grooves and minute apertures. On its inner surface the channels for blood vessels are deepened." Later reports of the disease in ancient man have sometimes been based on inadequate evidence. In this report we describe a case of extensive Paget's disease, in an unusually well-preserved Late Saxon skeleton, which must rate as one of the most convincing examples yet recorded. DESCRIPTION OF THE SKELETON Several hundred Late Saxon burials have been excavated from Jarrow Monastery, Durham, during the past decade. One of these (No. 69 WC 16), probably datable to around A.D. 950, is that of a man, aged about sixty-five, and shows some interesting abnormalities. It lacks a little of the facial skeleton, the feet and the distal end of the leg bones but apart from that it is virtually complete and in very good condition, although the long bones and most ribs have suffered a few clean breaks from post- inhumation soil pressure. Of the surviving remains all except a few rib fragments and hand bones are extensively diseas

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