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Original article

Vol. 143 No. 3132 (2013)

Multiple osteosclerotic lesions in an Iron Age skull from Switzerland (320‒250 BC) – an unusual case

  • Negahnaz Moghaddam
  • Rupert Langer
  • Steffen Ross
  • Ebbe Nielsen
  • Sandra Lösch
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2013;143:w13819


The single Hochdorf burial was found in 1887 during construction work in the Canton of Lucerne, Switzerland. It dates from between 320 and 250 BC. The calvarium, the left half of the pelvis and the left femur were preserved. The finding shows an unusual bony alteration of the skull. The aim of this study was to obtain a differential diagnosis and to examine the skull using various methods. Sex and age were determined anthropologically. Radiological examinations were performed with plain X-ray imaging and a multislice computed tomography (CT) scanner. For histological analysis, samples of the lesion were taken. The pathological processing included staining after fixation, decalcification, and paraffin embedding. Hard-cut sections were also prepared. The individual was female. The age at death was between 30 and 50 years. There is an intensely calcified bone proliferation at the right side of the os frontalis. Plain X-ray and CT imaging showed a large sclerotic lesion in the area of the right temple with a partly bulging appearance. The inner boundary of the lesion shows multi-edged irregularities. There is a diffuse thickening of the right side. In the left skull vault, there is a mix of sclerotic areas and areas which appear to be normal with a clear differentiation between tabula interna, diploë and tabula externa. Histology showed mature organised bone tissue. Radiological and histological findings favour a benign condition. Differential diagnoses comprise osteomas which may occur, for example, in the setting of hereditary adenomatous polyposis coli related to Gardner syndrome.


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