Bone Deformities and Skeletal Malformations in the Roman Imperial Age

Simona Minozzi, Paola Catalano, Walter Pantano, Carla Caldarini, Gino Forniciari


This paper describes some cases of individuals affected by skeletal deformities resulting in freak appearance. The skeletal remains were found during large archaeological excavations in the Roman territory, carried out by the Special Superintendence to the Archeological Heritage of Rome in the last years, dated back to the Imperial Age. The first cases reported are referred to two growth disorders with opposite effects: a case of dwarfism and another of gigantism. The former concerns a young man from the Collatina necropolis with very short and malformed limbs, which allowed a diagnosis of acondroplasic dwarfism, a rare congenital disorder that limits height below 130 cm. The latter case comes from the necropolis of Torre Serpentana in Fidenae, and is instead referred to a young person of very high stature, about 204 cm, suffering from Gigantism, a rare condition which in this case seems to have been linked to a hormonal dysfunction due to a pituitary adenoma. A third case regards a joint disease affecting the vertebral column and causing severe deformities. The skeleton was found in the Collatina necropolis and belongs to an old woman, suffering from ankylosing spondylitis. Finally, the last and very peculiar case is related to an individual recovered in the necropolis of Castel Malnome. The skeletal remainsbelong to an adult man with a complete fusion of the temporo mandibular joint, which compromised mastication and caused severe deformation of the maxillofacial complex. These cases are described in detail together with the possible implications that these deformities could have on in the social context. 

Key words: Skeletal deformities Bone diseases Roman Imperial Age Palaeopathology

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