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1 August 2009
Remains of an ancient paraplegic found in Vietnam

Archaeologists have uncovered the ancient remains of a young man in northern Vietnam who could be the oldest known paraplegic in the world. The discovery has astounded researchers, showing the long-term survival of a man with a severe disability in a community where almost 50 per cent of people died before they turned five.
     The remains, which are between 3500 and 4000-years-old, reveal the man was about 25 and was born with a rare disorder called Klippel-Feil syndrome. Lead researcher and Australian National University, bioarchaeol-ogist Marc Oxenham, said the man would have had a dedicated carer, or even a number of carers, to ensure his survival during a time when life was extremely hard. "It's the most astounding thing I can imagine," Dr Oxenham said. "With a lot of children dying, you wouldn't think there'd be a great deal of sympathy around. But obviously there was. It sort of makes you wonder and think was it totally altruistic, or was there something else going on did this person have some other particular ability that the community needed." Dr Oxenham said they had searched the literature extensively and had not found a clearcut case of paraplegia as old as this one.

Source: The Canberra Times (27 July 2009)

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