A case of childhood tuberculosis from Modern Period burial from Crkvari, Northern Croatia

This paper presents the results of a comprehensive bioarchaeological analysis of skeletal remains from grave 398 from the Medieval and Modern Period site Crkvari located in Slavonia, Croatia. Age-at-death of the individual recovered from this grave, determined by standard anthropological criteria, is between 7.5 and 8.5 years. Detailed paleopathological analyses suggest the presence of infectious disease. The most noticeable changes are observed on the vertebral column and ribs and include: resorption and prolapse of the corpus of the 3rd to 9th thoracic vertebrae, ankylosis of vertebral arches from the 7th cervical to the 7th thoracic vertebrae, Pott’s gibbus from the 2nd thoracic to 7th thoracic vertebrae, complete resorption of the bodies of the 3rd to 5th thoracic vertebrae, porotic and osteolytic lesions on the neural arches of the 12th thoracic, 1st and 2nd lumbar vertebrae, marked flattening of the sternal ends of the 4th left and 8th right ribs, and swelling of the vertebrae ends of the three left and three right ribs. After excluding other non-infectious and infectious diseases, the most likely cause of these changes is tuberculous spondylitis which, along with joint involvement and osteomyelitis, is one of the most common manifestations of skeletal tuberculosis in children. Archaeological analysis suggests that this child lived during the 17th century, at the start of an epidemic of tuberculosis that affected Europe and coincided with the revival of trade routes and a flourishing of craft and commerce activities that increased in the area around Crkvari. These activities may have facilitated the spread of infectious diseases including tuberculosis.

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