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… but a fellow sufferer of scoliosis (bent spine) excavated from Chelsea Old Church post-medieval burial ground in London, by Museum of London Archaeology  Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA).

The image features the fused 9th to 11th thoracic vertebrae, as well as a fused right rib, from a mature adult female. It is taken from a high resolution 3D scan which has been rendered in gold to maximise visibility of the surface contours of the bones. She probably suffered from idiopathic scoliosis resulting in severe lateral (sideways) curvature of the spine.

The condition is thought to be congenital (genetic?) and usually manifests in childhood, so this woman would have been affected for several decades. The left sides of her vertebrae have fused together in an attempt to stabilise her spine. This image only shows a small section of her spine. When all her vertebrae are joined together (articulated), the spine forms an ‘S’-shape, which in life would have given her body an asymmetrical appearance with the right shoulder higher than the left.

This work forms part of the Digitised Disease project , a collaboration between the Biological Anthropology Research Centre (BARC) at University of Bradford, MOLA and the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS). It will provide a web based learning and reference resource for students, professionals and others. By scanning and reproducing examples of pathological lesions, both archaeological (BARC and MOLA) and from the collections at the Royal College of Surgeons, we plan to provide evidence of disease from populations who lacked antibiotics and other modern treatments and so present the full range of bone lesions that result from pathological conditions.

The two examples below illustrate 1. the scanned and 2. the textured 3D images of a right humerus of an individual from St Mary Spital medieval burial ground with achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism. On the first image, each colour represents a different ‘pass’ over the bone with the laser scanner. These are eventually aligned to form a single image. This is then used as a template on which to map photographic images of the bone in order to produce the final surface detail. This and further images can be found on MOLA Facebook, Twitter and blog pages.

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