Skeletal Radiology

, Volume 45, Issue 3, pp 323–331 | Cite as

New paleoradiological investigations of ancient human remains from North West Lombardy archaeological excavations

  • Marta LicataEmail author
  • Melania Borgo
  • Giuseppe Armocida
  • Luca Nicosia
  • Elena Ferioli
Scientific Article



Since its birth in 1895, radiology has been used to study ancient mummies. The purpose of this article is to present paleoradiological investigations conducted on several medieval human remains in Varese province. Anthropological (generic identification) and paleopathological analyses were carried out with the support of diagnostic imaging (X-ray and CT scans).

Materials and methods

Human remains were discovered during excavations of medieval archaeological sites in northwest Lombardy. Classical physical anthropological methods were used for the macroscopic identification of the human remains. X-ray and CT scans were performed on the same scanner (16-layer Hitachi Eclos 16 X-ray equipment).


Radiological analysis permitted investigating (1) the sex, (2) age of death, (3) type of trauma, (4) therapeutic interventions and (5) osteomas in ancient human remains. In particular, X-ray and CT examinations showed dimorphic facial traits on the mummified skull, and the same radiological approaches allowed determining the age at death from a mummified lower limb. CT analyses allow investigating different types of traumatic lesions in skulls and postcranial skeleton portions and reconstructing the gait and functional outcomes of a fractured femur. Moreover, one case of possible Gardner’s syndrome (GS) was postulated from observing multiple osteomas in an ancient skull.


Among the medical tests available to the clinician, radiology is the most appropriate first-line procedure for a diagnostic approach to ancient human remains because it can be performed without causing any significant damage to the specimen.


Paleoradiology X-ray CT Ancient human remains Archaeological excavations Northwest Lombardy 



The authors wish to thank the Lombardy Archaeological Heritage Department for consigning the skeletons studied herein to our laboratory. Thanks also go to Dr. Ugo Maspero and Luca Romano, radiologists at the Fondazione Borghi in Brebbia (VA), who performed the X-ray and CT analyses.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and animal rights

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

This articles does not contain patient data.


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Copyright information

© ISS 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marta Licata
    • 1
    Email author
  • Melania Borgo
    • 1
  • Giuseppe Armocida
    • 1
  • Luca Nicosia
    • 1
  • Elena Ferioli
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biotechnology and Life SciencesUniversity of Insubria (Varese)VareseItaly

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