Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 10, Issue 6, pp 1375–1387 | Cite as

Spinal dysraphism at the Syrian Neolithic site of Dja’de el-Mughara

  • F. Estebaranz-SánchezEmail author
  • L. M. Martínez
  • M. Alrousan
  • Bérénice Chamel
  • M. Molist
  • E. Coqueugniot
  • A. Pérez-Pérez
Original Paper


Spina bifida is a neurulation defect that results in an incomplete closing of the backbone, as well as membranes surrounding the spinal cord. Several archaeological cases of spina bifida have been reported, remarkably during the Bronze Age and Classic Era. However, few prehistoric cases have been recovered, with the exception of the important Epipaleolithic Iberomaurusian site of Taforalt (Morocco). This article describes the first case of a spina bifida condition during the Neolithic of Near East, at the Syrian site of Dja-de el-Mughara. Although at the onset of the Syrian civil war, image record has enabled the description of a complete spina bifida case. Two other possible cases have not been confirmed, since it was impossible to reevaluate the osteological material hosted at the field laboratory in Dja-de el-Mughara. However, due to the low incidence of this neural tube disorder (NTD), we argue that it could be associated to a genetic disorder rather than to environmental factors such as arsenic intake or a deficient diet.


Spina bifida Dja’de Neolithic Paleopathology Near East Sacrum Syria Neural tube disorders 



This article was funded by a travel grant associated to the FPU grant from the Spanish Government to Ferran Estebaranz-Sánchez. We are grateful to all the members of the Archaeological Spanish Mission to Tell Halula, especially to Josep Anfruns and Anna Gómez, as well as the members of the French Archaeological Mission to Dja’de el-Mighara, especially to Rima Khawam and Hala Alarashi. Finally, we must express our heartfelt admiration for Mohammad Ali, the government responsible of the site, who, despite the onset of the war, has been concerned about the future of the site.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • F. Estebaranz-Sánchez
    • 1
    Email author
  • L. M. Martínez
    • 1
  • M. Alrousan
    • 2
  • Bérénice Chamel
    • 3
  • M. Molist
    • 4
  • E. Coqueugniot
    • 3
  • A. Pérez-Pérez
    • 1
  1. 1.Sec. Zoologia i Antropologia, Dept. de Biologia Evolutiva, Ecologia i Ciències Ambientals, Facultat de BiologiaUniversitat de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Archaeology and AnthropologyYarmouk UniversityIrbidJordan
  3. 3.UMR Archéorient, Maison de l’Orient et de la MéditerranéeLyonFrance
  4. 4.Seminari d’Arqueologia Prehistòrica del Pròxim Orient (SAPPO)Universitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain

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