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Dwarfism not a physical handicap in Ancient Egypt

December 29th, 2005

Dwarfism not a physical handicap in Ancient Egypt

The dwarf god Bes

A team of Georgetown University Hospital studied biological remains and remnants that that showed that dwarfism in ancient Egypt was not seen as a handicap, but as respected individuals in this society.

First reported in the December 27th online American Journal of Medical Genetics, this interesting investigation showed that Egypt morals teachings and wisdom writings commanded respect for dwarfs as well as others with disabilities.  Amenemope who wrote in a book of moral teachings said, “Man is clay and straw, the God is his builder.  The Wise Man should respect people affected by reversal of fortune.”

There are currently 100 medical conditions that we know of today that cause short stature.  The most common cause is called achondroplasia and causes severely shortened limbs.  Around 75% of dwarfs are born from parents of normal height.


Some dwarfs were part of households with high official and were respected enough to be buried lavishly in royal cemeteries close to the pyramids.  There are numerous artifacts of artwork of images of dwarfs found on tomb walls and vases, among other relics.  The researchers say there were numerous representations of dwarfs in at least 50 tombs, which made them believe that dwarfs were well integrated into society.  The pictures showed dwarfs were working as personal attendants; they raised animals, were jewelers, dancers, entertainers, and also managers of the production of linen.

There were two gods, Bes and Ptah, who were both dwarfs.  Bes was a guardian of sexuality, childbirth, women and children.  They would call on Bes during childbirth for a safe delivery.  The temple for Bes was recently excavated in Baharia which is located in the middle of Egypt.  The other dwarf god, Ptah was connected to regeneration and rejuvenation. 


"The burial sites and artistic sources provide glimpses of the positions in daily life in ancient Egypt," wrote Dr Chahira Kozma, of the department of paediatrics at Georgetown University. "Dwarfs were accepted in ancient Egypt; their recorded daily activities suggest assimilation into daily life, and their disorder was never shown as a physical handicap."  

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By Nicole Wilson
Best Syndication Staff Writer



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