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Skeleton showing the effects of leprosy, Netherlands, 1250-1500

The right and left feet show the devastating effects of leprosy on the bones of the body. This erosion and damage, caused by the decay of protective fatty tissue, does not occur in all cases. These feet are believed to be from an adult female buried in a Danish leprosy cemetery attached to a leper hospital. Those with leprosy were social outcasts due to fear of catching the disfiguring disease and it appears the same happened in death. However, similar skeletal remains have been found in graveyards not attached to leper hospitals.

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Glossary: human remains

term created as part of the NMSI human remains policy (from April 2007); Other terms used are 'blood' and 'human hair'

Glossary: skeleton

The bones or bony framework of an animal body considered as a whole; also, more generally, the harder (supporting or covering) constituent part of an animal organism.

Glossary: leprosy

A chronic disease that affects the skin, mucous membrane and nerves. It is now confined mainly to the tropics and is transmitted by direct contact. Previously a widely feared disease, leprosy is not highly infectious.

Glossary: quarantine

A period of isolation that is forced on people to try to halt the spread of disease. Quarantine was one of the few measures available to combat the spread of infectious disease before the development of antibiotics.