Down Syndrome in the Medieval Period

On July 4, 2014, there was an article posted about the oldest case of Down syndrome discovered when a skeleton of a child who died 1500 years ago was found in early medieval France.  The skeleton was recognized as having Down syndrome because the skull was short and broad with a flattened skull base and thin cranial bones, which are all features of people born with Down syndrome.  The way in which the child was buried was analyzed, and the analysis hinted that the child was not stigmatized in society because he was not treated differently in death.  The child was laid on its back in the tomb, in an east-west orientation with the head at the westward end, which was common in ancient burials.  Although the remains from the child do not prove any cultural beliefs from the time period, they indicate the possibility that the child was integrated into society.  By looking at other articles, I found that there is much speculation as to how people with disabilities were treated in medieval times.  However, despite the possibility that people with disabilities were treated poorly, they did live in their local communities rather than being institutionalized.  The actual conceptions of people with disabilities varied by their actual disability, their social class, and religion.

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