Volume 121 (2013) Issue 3 Pages 173-185
This study provides a review of the skeletal manifestations of infantile scurvy and presents four cases observed in the Bácsalmás–Óalmás series (247 subadults and 234 adults; 126 males, 113 females, 242 unknown sex) dating from the 16–17th centuries AD. In the case of these four infants (aged 6 months–3 years) bilateral porous bone lesions were found on the external surface of the cranial bones. In three cases, these features were associated with porous new bone formations and/or abnormal blood vessel impressions in the internal surface of the skull. Moreover, porotic alterations of the long bones occurred in all cases and were mostly symmetrically developed. In order to confirm the origin of the observed features, the lesions were investigated using microscopic techniques. Analyses of the cross sections provided similar results in each case: newly built bone formations were visible on the external bone surfaces. These new bone layers are only found externally to the original bone surfaces. Thus, the original bone substance was not affected. On the basis of the characteristics of the observed lesions and their topographic distribution in the skeleton, and, additionally, by the use of microscopic analyses, we can state that the most likely diagnosis is scurvy. Furthermore, the co-occurrence of anaemia was also confirmed in one case. Up to now, there has been no archaeological evidence of scurvy in Central Europe in this time period, although on the basis of historical sources, the occurrence of this disease was expected. Additionally, besides these four cases, there are numerous other possible cases of infantile scurvy in this population, which suggests that the diet of the examined individuals was probably poor in vegetables and fruits.