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1500 Year-Old Skeleton Shows the Oldest Case of Down Syndrome

A new research shows that the earliest probable case of Down syndrome in the archaeological record comes from a child of 5 to 7 years old who lived in medieval France some 1500 years ago. The researchers in the case of Down syndrome say that the body of the child was treated in the similar way to others buried at the site and not being treated being the youngest example of the condition in the archaeological record..

While excavating the 93 skeletons from a fifth to sixth century necropolis located just south of the Abbey of Sing-Jean-des-Vignes in north eastern France, the archaeologists also originally discovered the skeleton of the child in 1989. A rigorous analysis to confirm the diagnosis was not performed though the researchers had suspected the child may have had Down syndrome.

A computed tomography (CT) scan was taken after the study of the skull of the child by Maite Rivollat, an archaeologist at the University of Bordeaux and her colleagues to the understand its internal features.  “Two earlier publications just mentioned the possibility of Down syndrome without [conducting] a detailed study,” Rivollat told Huffington Post in an email. “The [CT] scan was a new possibility to approach the intracranial aspect of that skull.”

Oldest known case of Down syndrome found in France

Oldest known case of Down syndrome found in France

A person having an extra copy of chromosome 21 has a genetic disorder known as Down syndrome. People with intellectual disabilities, physical growth delays and certain facial features, including a flat nasal bridge and almond shaped eyes that slant upward are said to be born with Down syndrome.

Rivollat and her team studied the dimensions and structure of the child’s skull and compared it with the skulls of 78 other children of similar ages to see if the Saint-Jean-des-Vignes child really had Down syndrome. The French child had numerous features indicative of Down syndrome which other skulls lacked was revealed in their analysis.

The skull was flattened at the base and was short and broad is an example of Down syndrome. It contained thin cranial bones and certain extra bone pieces is in addition to it. The researchers pointed out in their study, published online last month in the International Journal of Paleopathology, that the child also had some sinus and dental abnormalities which aren’t diagnostic of Down syndrome of their own, but are indicative of the disorder when considered along with other characteristics.

About Enozia Vakil

Enozia Vakil is an online entrepreneur, writer, editor and an avid reader. She has been associated with some of the best names in both online and print media, and holds a degree in Alternative Medicine.