(ORDO NEWS) — On the territory of a medieval monastery in Poland, archaeologists discovered human skeleton with two forms of dwarfism at once. They explain that this is a rare phenomenon that has never been found before in ancient skeletons.
The cemetery is located in the small village of Lekno in west-central Poland. Today, Lekno has only a few hundred inhabitants, but in the 9th-11th centuries it was a fortified city with a small domed church near the center. In the 12th century Cistercian- members of the Catholic religious order of monks and nuns – founded a monastery in the city.
Around 1450 a cemetery was founded, and until the 16th century both monks and local laity were buried there.
When archaeologists excavated the monastery cemetery in 1990, they found over 400 graves, including the body of a man marked Ł3/66/90. Carbon analysis of the skeleton showed that the man lived in the 9th-11th centuries.
After studying the skeleton in detail, Matchak and her colleagues made an intriguing discovery: the man had multiple skeletal dysplasias, which are hereditary conditions that affect the development and shape of bones, cartilage, muscles, tendons and ligaments. In particular, the man probably had two different forms of dwarfism.
After creating 3D models, the researchers focused on the anomalous shape of several bones. In particular, they recorded a disproportionate skull, narrow channels for the spinal cord, short ribs and protruding pelvic bones. These results suggested achondroplasia, a condition in which a person has very short arms and legs, a medium-sized torso, and a larger-than-average head.
In addition, based on the man’s twisted elbows and high arched palate, Matchak and her team determined that the man had a rare condition called Leri-Weill dyschondrosteosis (LWD).
“Although achondroplasia has been the most commonly reported dysplasia in the archaeological record, only a few cases of LWD have been diagnosed. Ł3/66/90 is the first case of achondroplasia and LWD directly from the medieval period in Central Europe,” the researchers wrote.
Matchak and her colleagues want to know more about how this man lived and died.
“He was buried without any grave goods, but in a typical grave, which indicates his proper commemoration after death. Depending on whether a person was a layman or a monk, his life could vary greatly depending on his genetic condition. The monastery was a place of greater involvement for people physically different from the secular world,” Magdalena Matchak.
Researchers are studying the man’s diet using carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis. The results could help scientists pinpoint exactly when a person lived.
“Perhaps this man lived later and was associated with the Cistercians, who built the church on the remains of the fortress and its walls. We will have answers to these intriguing questions in the coming months,” says Matchak.
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