The earliest probable case of Down syndrome in the archaeological record comes from a 5- to 7-year-old child who lived in medieval France some 1,500 years ago, new research shows.
The child, who is also the youngest example of the condition in the archaeological record, likely was not stigmatized in life, given that the body was treated in a similar way to others buried at the site, researchers say.
Archaeologists originally discovered the skeleton of the child in 1989, when they excavated it along with 93 other skeletons from a fifth- to sixth-century necropolis located just south of the Abbey of Saint-Jean-des-Vignes in northeastern France. Researchers had suspected the child may have had Down syndrome, but they hadn’t performed a rigorous analysis to confirm the diagnosis. [See Photos of the Remains of an Ancient Plague Epidemic]
So Maïté Rivollat, an archaeologist at the University of Bordeaux, and her colleagues studied the skull of the child, and took a computed tomography (CT) scan of it to understand its internal features.
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