Biz-Archive Tute-List

2003 February Highlights

Hydrocephalus in Ancient Egypt Ancient Egypt 
This is a continuation of the discussion on the "eggheads" thread that
Eva began. I remembered somethings from my Art History class and
started a web search and this is what I found.

"Dwarfism is readily depicted in tomb art, statuary, and coffin lids.
The form typically is achondroplasia. Club foot can be identified, also
increased hydrocephalic pressure that led to enlarged skulls."

I'm looking around for secondary resources for the incidence of
Hydrocephalus in Ancient Egypt.

From what I recall from my art history classes, the Royal family had
Hydrocephalus. Queen Nefretiti, queen of that Whacked AKHEN-ATON was
thought to have this condition, ergo the big hat. As for what
AKHEN-ATON might have been suffering from here's a very interesting
page for those folks who find medical mysteries facinating.

But on with the research of the elongated heads...
"Later Dr. G. Elliot Smith, a professor of anatomy, examined the
remains and declared the body to be male about 25 to 26 years old
based on ossification. This age was later reduced to 24 years old by
Dr. Derry, who took over the position of Dr. Smith, who agreed to the
reduction in age of the mummy. Also, the skull bore evidence of
hydrocephalus according to Dr. Smith, an abnormal condition in which
the frontal part of the cranium is extended but never the occipital
part, as is the case with the cranium of Akhnaton. This finding, too,
was later judged a normal family related feature by Dr. Derry. He
asked Dr. Engelbach, an Egyptologist, to examine the evidence and
determine whose body it could be. He decided it was the mummy of
Smenkhare, a favorite of Akhnaton, who also bore those titles. A
comparison of the mummy remains of `Smenkhare' and `Thutankhamen'
revealed that they were brothers. This fact has reportedly been
confirmed more recently by determining the blood group on the bases of
small amounts of remaining skin of the mummy of KV55 as the rare A2
type which also happens to be the type of the mummy of Tuthankhamen."

(1) Congenital Disorders. Egypt is a major source of skeletal evidence
for achondroplasia. One poignant specimen is an achondroplastic woman
with her undeliverable fetus; in our day, a Caesarean section is
necessary for a live birth. Two embalmed fetuses were recovered from
Tutankhamun's tomb in 1926. One had a congenital defect--spinal
bifida. Whether they were children of his wife Ankhesenamun is
unknown. Club foot, cleft palate, and hydrocephalus have also been
found.  Angelica offered this link to replace the following link that is no longer available. html (page gone)
"Hydrocephalus, the technical term for excess fluid on the brain,
resulting from the drainage openings in the skull being of
insufficient size. All people with achondroplasia have some
hydrocephalus, and no harm generally results. In addition, all people
with achondroplasia have slightly enlarged heads, which can sometimes
create the appearance of a problem where there is none. Nevertheless,
occasionally hydrocephalus can present a problem, in which case a
shunt may be surgically implanted to drain excess fluid. "

The Egyptians were experts in Trepanning, boring a hole in the skull
to relieve pressure on the brain. Bone growth around the holes showed
that the patient lived after the experience.

Hydrocephalus, or "water on the brain", was evident in Ancient Egypt.
These congenital disorders were kept in the Royal family because of
inbreeding. Our standards of incest taboos were not part of their
Dynastic plans, so uncles marrying neices, Half brothers and sisters
as in the case of King Tut and Ankhesenamum, were common marriages in
the Royal family to maintain the power within the family.

The only Ancient culture I know that shaped heads of babies on a
regular basis to distinguish the nobility from the common folks is in
MesoAmerica: the Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas
"Head shaping still occurs in some places such as isolated communities
of South America."
"Head shaping is still done in parts of South America. For the Inka of
South America and the Maya of Central America and Mexico, a specially
shaped head once signified nobility. Because the skull bones of
infants and children are not completely fused, the application of
pressure with pads, boards, bindings, or massage results in a gently
shaped head that can be a mark of high status or local identity. "

So that's what I can find on this topic.