Curious Skeletons Excavated in East Iceland

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Curious Skeletons Excavated in East Iceland

A skeleton from a person who suffered from the Paget’s disease of bone was unearthed this week during an archeological excavation project at Skriduklaustur in east Iceland, where a monastery was once operated.

Skriduklaustur, where there is now a museum dedicated to the author Gunnar Gunnarsson. Photo by Geir Ólafsson.

Archeologist Steinunn Kristjánsdóttir, who is responsible for the project, told Fréttabladid that many curious things have come to light during the excavation, which is taking place for the ninth summer in a row.

“We know now that a hospital was operated in the monastery from 1490 to 1550, which makes it the oldest hospital in Iceland,” Kristjánsdóttir said. “It wasn’t known that the monasteries were involved in such operations until we started finding skeletons of patients in 2003.”

So far, 185 skeletons have been excavated but this is the first time that a skeleton has been found showing indications of the Paget’s disease. Kristjánsdóttir said there is only one other known case in Iceland.

“We have found many cases of syphilis and tuberculosis but this one is different as the disease causes overgrowth and deformation of the bones,” the archeologist explained.

She said that judging by the great number of people who sought treatment at the hospital in Skriduklaustur, patients must have come from all over the country and maybe even from abroad during the hospital’s 60 years of operation.

Click here to read more about the excavation at Skriduklaustur.