A skeleton found near the Hungarian town of Abony-Turjányos dűlő contains the most ancient example of leprosy ever found, it has been revealed.
More than 400 artefacts were excavated from the site and were dated back to around the Protoboleráz horizon, 3780-3650 BC, at the beginning of the Late Copper Age.
Archaeologists uncovered 48 human remains. The remains of one individual demonstrated a rare set of bone lesions that indicate the possible presence of leprosy (Hansen’s disease).
Scientists found that the most characteristic lesions occurred on the bones of the face, including “erosion of the nasal aperture, atrophy of the anterior nasal spine, inflammation of the nasal bone and porosity on both the maxilla and the bones of the lower legs.”
In a further four sets of individual remains, leprosy infection is suspected but other infections cannot be excluded.
The morphologically diagnosed possible leprosy case significantly modifies our knowledge about the timescale and geographic spread of this specific infectious disease. However, it is not possible to determine the potential connections between the cases of possible leprosy and the special burial circumstances.