Leprosy, battle wounds found in early medieval cemetery

The scull of a leper who died fighting is one of several interesting burials identified at an Italian cemetery used between 500 and 700 CE. The cemetery likely contains remains of Germanic Lombards or Avars.

The Lombards controlled the territory at the time and were at war with Byzantium. Several burials show evidence of serious war wounds, possibly from Byzantine weapons. One skull shows evidence of head surgery and healing.

One skull shows wasting and deformity indicative of leprosy. It also shows a fresh sword wound indicating that this, not illness, may have been the cause of death. That and the inclusion of the body in a military cemetery indicated the Lombards may have been more tolerant of lepers than other peoples of the time. [photo]