Medieval Example of Cleft Lip and Palate from St. Gregory's Priory, Canterbury

Canterbury Archaeological Trust, Kent, Great Britain.
The Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Journal (Impact Factor: 1.2). 12/1994; 31(6):466-72. DOI: 10.1597/1545-1569(1994)031<0466:MEOCLA>2.3.CO;2
Source: PubMed


An archaeologically retrieved skeleton from medieval Canterbury possibly of the late eleventh or twelfth century, displays clear evidence of cleft lip and palate. A case of cleft palate dating from the seventh century, is known from an Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Burwell. This is the first evidence for both cleft lip and palate in British archaeological material. The individual had survived into adulthood. Apart from an odontome, there was no osseous evidence of any other abnormalities. Artistic evidence of cleft lip dates to the fourth century B.C. and surgical intervention (A.D. 390) is known from China.

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    • "Despite his high status burial , SK8 clus - tered with the low status , lay population for all four isotope systems , suggesting he was of local origin and in spite of his disability ate an omnivorous diet . Whether it was his family ' s wealth and status , or the compassion of the clerics at the Priory , that ensured he survived childhood and received a high status burial in middle age cannot now be ascer - tained , but it is of note that one of the few other archaeological individuals with cleft palate was also excavated at a medieval priory in Canterbury , England ( Anderson 1994 ) . Mass graves that provide evidence for contem - poraneous burial and invoke deliberate killing , with or without clear skeletal evidence of trauma , have been subject to isotope analysis to determine whether the victims were of local or distant ori - gin , were of similar or disparate origins , and to see whether any relationship between origins and biological sex could be determined . "
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    ABSTRACT: This study presents an analysis of an adult male that demonstrates diagnostic markers of cleft palate. The burial is associated with the Grider Site, Late Woodland context (AD 500 to 1000), located in Pike County, Indiana, USA. The analysis draws on clinical and palaeopathology literature to consider other possible conditions responsible for the skeletal anomalies. Cleft palate occurs in about one in 1000 live births, and is one of the most common defects of the face. Despite the high frequency of cleft palate, few cases are reported from the archaeological record. It is possible that, in the past, few infants survived extreme forms of cleft palate, and such cases are not present to be recorded. Or, it is possible that the lesion simply goes undocumented. This analysis outlines the markers of cleft palate in this individual and demonstrates that a prehistoric culture could overcome the health issues experienced by an infant with the condition (full communication between the oral and nasal cavities) and survive to adulthood. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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