Representation of spinal tuberculosis in a Ptolemaic dwarf statuette

Veronica Papa, Francesco M Galassi, Elena Varotto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Still today, tuberculosis (TB) represents one of the world's deadliest communicable diseases, hence understanding its history is of vital importance. The principal causative organism is Mycobacterium tuberculosis, an obligate pathogen member of the M. tuberculosis complex (MTBC). Palaeopathological findings suggestive of tuberculosis from Predynastic Egypt have been reported. As a matter of fact, tuberculosis has long been recognized in Egyptian mummies in its most characteristic skeletal form, Pott's disease. In this essay, we describe a statuette of a dwarf exhibited in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples (MANN) as a potential ancient representation of Pott's disease. According to so far published data, spinal tuberculosis can be identified by studying the morphology and shape of the gibbus, since an angulate gibbus often points out to Pott's disease. We additionally offer differential diagnoses and a full contextualization of Pott's disease in the days of Ancient Egypt.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)188-195
Number of pages8
JournalVesalius: Acta Internationales Historiae Medicinae
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Tuberculosis
  • Pott's Disease
  • Dwarfism
  • Disease in art
  • Palaeopathology


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