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Possible cases of leprosy from the Late Copper Age (3780-3650 cal BC) in Hungary.


At the Abony-Turjányos dűlő site, located in Central Hungary, a rescue excavation was carried out. More than 400 features were excavated and dated to the Protoboleráz horizon, at the beginning of the Late Copper Age in the Carpathian Basin, between 3780-3650 cal BC. Besides the domestic and economic units, there were two special areas, with nine-nine pits that differed from the other archaeological features of the site. In the northern pit group seven pits contained human remains belonging to 48 individuals. Some of them were buried carefully, while others were thrown into the pits. The aim of this study is to present the results of the paleopathological and molecular analysis of human remains from this Late Copper Age site. The ratio of neonates to adults was high, 33.3%. Examination of the skeletons revealed a large number of pathological cases, enabling reconstruction of the health profile of the buried individuals. Based on the appearance and frequency of healed ante- and peri mortem trauma, inter-personal (intra-group) violence was characteristic in the Abony Late Copper Age population. However other traces of paleopathology were observed on the bones that appear not to have been caused by warfare or inter-group violence. The remains of one individual demonstrated a rare set of bone lesions that indicate the possible presence of leprosy (Hansen's disease). The most characteristic lesions occurred on the bones of the face, including erosion of the nasal aperture, atrophy of the anterior nasal spine, inflammation of the nasal bone and porosity on both the maxilla and the bones of the lower legs. In a further four cases, leprosy infection is suspected but other infections cannot be excluded. The morphologically diagnosed possible leprosy case significantly modifies our knowledge about the timescale and geographic spread of this specific infectious disease. However, it is not possible to determine the potential connections between the cases of possible leprosy and the special burial circumstances.

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Journal Article
Köhler K
Marcsik A
Zádori P
Biro G
Szeniczey T
Fábián S
Serlegi G
Marton T
Donoghue HD
Hajdu T
Year of Publication
PloS one
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Alternate Journal
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