Skeletons from Egyptian necropolis in Saqqara studied

Bioarchaeologist studied human remains from an ancient Egyptian necropolis in Saqqara. The 2000-year-old skeletons revealed a number of pathologies and diseases that the population suffered during their lives.

Examination of the skeletons (by Wojciech Wojciechowski)

The necropolis has been established about 6000 years ago and during the period of the Old Kingdom about 4000 years ago it was used to bury regular members of the Egyptian society and not the elite, as in prior period. The site also revealed decorated rock tombs from the Old Kingdom period and burials from the Ptolemaic and Roman period (4th cent BC – 1st cent. AD). Some of the individuals were mummified, others were buried within shallow pits within the sand which allowed for natural mummification. From over 500 skeletons about 83 belonged to children, of which 29 were studied by the bioarchaeologist. Most of them were preserved in form of skeletons, sometimes still wrapped in shrouds.

Signs of anaemia in the eye sockets of a 18-month-old child (by Wojciech Wojciechowski)

Among the remains of the children the most numerous ones belonged to deceased between 3 to 5 years of age. According to the expert, they could have died due to infections and diseases that followed in the period after stopping being breast-fed. Pathological changes were observed on the skeletons, such as cribra orbitalia and teeth enamel hypoplasia, which might indicate malnutrition and struggling with diseases at the expense of the body’s correct development.

Signs of caries on the teeth of the upper jaw of a 3-years-old child (by Wojciech Wojciechowski)

Most of the children also struggled with caries, possibly due to the diet rich in sugars and carbohydrates. Changes were also noticed within the paranasal sinuses. They possibly developed due to chronic inflammation caused by constant exposure to dust-polluted air. What the experts find interesting is the lack of changes  indicating causes of death or cured diseases.

(after Nauka w Polsce & Wojciech Wojciechowski)

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