This Month at Forbes - Skull Coin, Citizen Archaeology, Gladiator DNA, Scurvy, Bundy Militia, La Jolla Fishermen, and Bronze Age Disability

Here are the things I wrote about in January on my Forbes blog:


Eric C. said…
About that Egyptian child with scurvy: Research related to the "Eskimo Paradox" seems to indicate that we don't need that much vitamin C to avoid scurvy (10 mg/day for an adult) and that it's available at useful levels even in animal foods:

So, do we have any reason to believe that these people ate *very* low levels of vegetables and fruits, or cooked everything very thoroughly?

Alternatively, I recall reading that many of the awful symptoms that the (upper-class) 18th-century English attributed to teething were in fact scurvy -- due to the practice of weaning, at about one year, to exclusively cooked grains.

Any thoughts? Do we have other evidence of infantile scurvy in various cultures?
I don't think there's a need to assume that adults ate low levels of vegetables and cooked everything, no. It was one of the authors' potential explanations for why an infant has scurvy. In general, we don't see scurvy in infants under about 6 months, but that's because they were usually breast-fed for at least that long. If the Egyptian infant had already been weaned, or even partially weaned, s/he may have become scorbutic depending on diet (such as a diet of porridge).

At any rate, the palaeopathology of scurvy is a growing interest in the field, and researchers like Megan Brickley and Sian Halcrow have done considerable work on it around the world and in various time periods, particularly in children. If you're interested in the topic, I'd highly recommend checking out their respective articles and books on the topic. I don't pretend to know everything about infantile scurvy, and they're the ones I'd consult for any questions I had!

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