92. The Story of Skeleton A8: Dr Calvin Wells and Leprosy in Saxon England

100 Objects

This week we look at one of the most influential articles written by Dr Calvin Wells, identifying a very early case of leprosy (Hansen’s disease): “as far as I know, the earliest British example to be described”.

Dr Wells, as we already saw, brought his medical training to the study of human bones, exploring the diseases and accidents from which past people suffered: palaeopathology.  He had often seen skeletons showing signs of possible leprosy, but he had been cautious in proclaiming them as cases of that disease.  There were so many other conditions that could produce a similar appearance in the bones of feet, hands or face.  In this case, however, having considered all the possibilities, he was sure.

The skeleton in question, known as A8, belonged to a very strong man aged between 25 and 35.  He died sometime around the year 500 AD.  Dr Wells reported that…

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