A novel approach: combining dental enamel hypoplasia and paleoparasitological analysis in mediavel Islamic individuals buried in Santarém (Portugal)


  • Daniela Cunha CIAS – Research Centre for Anthropology and Health, Department of Life Sciences, University of Coimbra
  • Ana Luísa Santos Departamento de Ciências da Vida, CIAS, Universidade de Coimbra
  • António Matias Archeological Department from the Cultural Heritage Service of the City of Santarem
  • Luciana Sianto




Hipoplasias do esmalte dentário, helmintos, Idade Média, “vantagem cumulativa/adversidade”, origens do desenvolvimento da saúde e da doença


Paleopathological and paleoparasitological studies seek evidences to understand health and disease in past populations. These two approaches are often used independently despite the obvious importance of its complementary. This paper aims to explore the possible relation between a common indicator of childhood stress and infection by intestinal parasites. Thirty adult individuals from the Islamic necropolis of Santarém (9th-12th cent. AD) were macroscopically examined for linear enamel hypoplasia. Sediment from the pelvis and skull of each skeleton were observed under the optical microscope in search of helminth eggs. Hypoplasic defects were identified in 46.67% of the individuals, mostly on canines and incisors. Eggs from Ascaris lumbricoides and Trichuris trichiura were identified respectively in 4 and 2 individuals. The Fisher’s exact test was performed to analyze whether the individuals with evidences of stress in early childhood were more prone to helminth infections or death at younger ages. Although these variables were shown to be independent, this exploratory study highlights the contribution of combining paleopathological and paleoparasitological methods to address the long-term impact of the physiological stress exposure in early life on the immune system. Furthermore, variety of factors that could have influenced these results are discussed and interpreted in a biocultural perspective.


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