Evidence of probable subadult scurvy in the Early Medieval cemetery of Castel Tirolo, South Tyrol, Italy
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SubjectAbnormal porosity; Alto Adige; Differential diagnosis; Early middle ages; Vitamin C; New bone
The study of subadult scurvy (vitamin C deficiency), also known as Möller‐Barlow's disease, is of growing interest in palaeopathology. However, in Italy, there is still a paucity of knowledge on nutritional stress diseases in human skeletal remains. In the present work, the anthropological and palaeopathological study on subadults found in the Early Medieval cemetery of Castel Tirolo, in South Tyrol (Italy) is reported. Referring to the macroscopic and palaeopathological features described in the literature, abnormal pores, and abnormal new bone formations were analysed in multiple cranial and postcranial skeletal regions. Based on our study, 58% individuals (N = 14/24) displayed abnormal lesions: three subadults were nonspecific pathological cases; nine showed few indicative, but not diagnostic, lesions; and two cases (TCT13 and TCT14) exhibited abnormal lesions highly consistent with scurvy. As a reliable diagnosis of vitamin C deficiency is still challenging, we conducted a differential diagnosis of the recorded lesions that supported the probable presence of scurvy in the two cases. This work presents the first documentation of scurvy in Early Medieval Italy revealing new insights into the health condition and nutritional stress in historical communities in the Eastern Italian Alps.
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