The Aswan-Kom Ombo Archaeological Project (AKAP), a joint venture between Italy and Poland, has uncovered the skeletal remains of a young woman suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, in one of the ancient tombs in Aswan.
This discovery is of great significance, as it is the only case of rheumatoid arthritis to be found in ancient Egypt so far, and one of the oldest cases in the world.
Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Mostafa Waziry said that more research will be conducted on the skeleton, which is a valuable scientific contribution and unmistakable evidence of the existence of rheumatoid arthritis in ancient Egypt, even though it was only clinically described in the 17th century.
Meanwhile, Director General of Aswan AntiquitiesAbdel Moneim Saeed stated that the studies on the skeleton showed that several joints on both sides of the body were affected, from the hands and feet to the shoulders, elbows, wrists and ankles.
He added that the mission looked for written and visual evidence of such a condition, but no explicit text about rheumatoid arthritis has been found so far.
Maria Carmela Gatto from the Polish Academy of Sciences and head of the mission, said that the main goal of the AKAP is to understand and investigate the health status of the ancient Egyptians, especially those who belonged to the lower middle class of society, and who lived on the margins of the ancient Egyptian state, such as in the far south.
Since 2005, the AKAP has been conducting archaeological surveys and documentation of prehistoric sites in the Aswan and Nubia region. The project is part of the mission of the Italian University of Bologna’s in collaboration with the Institute of Mediterranean and Eastern Cultures – the Polish Academy of Science.
One of the project’s achievements was the identification of the first case of scurvy in the skeleton of a young child from a pre-dynastic village (3800-3500 BC). The finding was reported in the International Journal of Paleopathology in 2016.