Mervyn Harris
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An investigation into the evidence of age-related osteoporosis in three Egyptian mummies
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Osteopaenia is defined as a bone mineral density (BMD) lower than that considered normal for the age of a particular individual. It is the result of impaired mineralization and excess accumulation of osteoid. Calcium and vitamin D deficiency, Hyperparathyroidism, chronic malignant disease, Chron’s disease, coeliac disease and ulcerative colitis may cause a decrease in bone mineral density. It can also be the result of the natural aging process. More severe cases of decreased bone mineralization are referred to as osteoporosis but the two conditions are essentially the same. Females are more commonly affected due to the decrease in oestrogen levels accompanying the menopause (postmenopausal osteoporosis). The condition can also result from hormonal and musculoskeletal deterioration of physical systems with age (age related osteoporosis). In the case of mummified remains, accurate determination of BMD using Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) cannot be reliably used, therefore other skeletal indicators of advanced age such as evidence of generalised degenerative osteoarthritis (OA), severe alveolar bone loss due to chronic periodontal disease and ante-mortem tooth loss should be looked for. This paper re-examines radiographs of three mummies from the British Museum, Liverpool and Leiden collections taken by Peter Gray in the 1960’s. All three mummies demonstrated radiographic evidence of osteoporosis in the absence of evidence of other pathologies which could cause the condition.

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