Oldest skeleton of Down syndrome child ever found refutes myth of mistreatment

By Scott Kaufman
Sunday, July 6, 2014 13:30 EDT
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Archeologists believe they have found the oldest extant skeletal remains of an individual with Down syndrome in Chalon-sur-Saône, France.

The skeleton was found in a necropolis that dates back to the 5th or 6th-century, and includes the remains of 94 other individuals.

Writing in The International Journal of Paleopathology, the University of Bordeaux’s Maïté Rivollat claimed that the “skull of the 5-7 year old child [had] a combination of features consistent with the diagnosis of Down syndrome.”

Such cases are rare in this period, which has led some scholars to contend that children born with the constellation of features associated with Down syndrome were put to death shortly after birth.

However, Rivollat and her team argue that the positioning of this child in the grave indicates that he or she was treated no differently than any other member of the community. Like the others in the necropolis, the child was found lying on his or her back with an east-west orientation, with the head was facing west.

“The context and funerary treatment of this child suggests that he/she was not stigmatized by other members of the community, who afforded a normal mode of burial,” Rivollat wrote.

["Skull of human child" on Shutterstock]

Scott Kaufman
Scott Kaufman
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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