Dwarfism, Ancient Societies and the Etruscan World

Main Article Content

M. Martinelli


The paper examines how in the Ancient World – among the many congenital pathologies attested since Prehistoric times, through Protohistory and in the different historical ages – different forms of dwarfism have been the object of an inclusive attitude by human societies. Starting from the Grotta del Romito in Papasidero, near Cosenza (Calabria, Italy), the study of burials and of their bones remains attributable to individuals with this anomaly of the Palaeolithic Age, it shows a particular care and affection toward dwarfs seen as handicapped member in the society in the Upper Palaeolithic. The study develops its analysis through the ages, thanks to palaeoanthropology, paleopathology, bioarchaeology, evolutionary medicine, ancient literature, iconography, and especially to iconodiagnostics. The latter is a part of the analysis of iconography that turns its attention to images related to pathologies, carrying out a retrospective diagnosis of diseases based on the study of images, in the hope of reconstructing the pathological context linked to the period and the area from which the documents under analysis originate. Coming to the Etruscan world, the paintings of the François Tomb from Vulci (Viterbo), dating back to 340 B.C., demonstrate the presence of dwarfs in the Etruscan society; a detailed iconodiagnostic analysis of the dwarf Arnza is carried out, reconstructing the medical and social condition of this hypothyroid dwarf.

Article Details

How to Cite
Martinelli, M. (2022). Dwarfism, Ancient Societies and the Etruscan World. International Journal of Anthropology, 37(3-4), 137-176. https://doi.org/10.14673/IJA2022341092
Author Biography

M. Martinelli

Martinelli M.
Archaeologist, Cultural Museums Unit’s Responsible.
Regione Toscana
Dept. of Cultural, Museal and Documental Heritage; UNESCO Sites; 
Contemporary Art.