Diagnosis of multiple osteomas in an ancient skeleton discovered in the necropolis of Caravate - Northern Italy

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Marta Licata
Melania Borgo
Giuseppe Armocida
Luca Nicosia
Elena Ferioli


multiple osteomas, Gardner’s Syndrome, X-ray, Computer tomography, Caravate, Italy


Background and aim of the work: A great number of neoplastic lesions are reported in paleopathological literature, in different periods and geographic areas; this is a proof that numerous tumors affected past populations. In particular, osteoma is a lesion that is familiar to paleopathologists. Nevertheless, the presence of multiple osteomas is poorly documented in paleopathological records. The aim of this paper is to report a pathological condition of multiple osteomas found in an ancient skull unearthed in the medieval necropolis of Caravate (Varese-North Italy). Methods: The classical physical anthropological methods were used for the macroscopical identification (race, sex, age at death and stature) of all the skeletons recovered by archaeologists. Biological identification of the skeleton followed guidelines recommended in Buikstra & Ubelaker (1994). Results: Radiological exams allowed to discover compact dense and uniform areas of thickening in the skull of Tomb 1, normally associated with Gardner’s Syndrome. The characteristic of this illness is the advancement of hundreds to thousands of intestinal adenomas (familial adenomatous polyposis, FAP), which can cause the development of colon or intestinal cancer. Conclusions: Paleopathology documented that benign and malignant tumors were present since the Neolithic. The scarcity of paleopathological cases of multiple osteomas reveals the necessity for more extensive research on paleoncology, through the systematic analysis on human osteological collections. To better understand possible case of Gardner's Syndrome, it would be useful to extend the analyses to all other skulls from the skeletal remains of the necropolis.


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