Skeletal Dysplasia: an Analysis of Dwarfism in Ancient Egyptian Culture


skeletal dysplasia
Walters Art Museum

How to Cite

Engele, K. (2020). Skeletal Dysplasia: an Analysis of Dwarfism in Ancient Egyptian Culture. Pathways, 1(1), 57–65.


The purpose of this paper is to analyze dwarfism and its standing in ancient Egyptian society and culture. Dwarfism existed in ancient Egyptian society, but unlike other ancient societies, those with dwarfism were not blatantly discriminated against (Sullivan 2001). Individuals with dwarfism could hold many positions within society ranging from herdsmen and fishermen, to personal attendants in royal court (Kozma 2008). There is evidence of individuals with dwarfism dating back to the Badarian Period, with statues, sarcophagi, skeletons, and paintings all having been discovered (Kozma 2008). There are several prominent figures who have been studied in detail; Per-ni-ankh-w was an individual with high status in Egyptian society, and there is ample docu­mentation of him in texts, visual imagery, and skeletal evidence (Kozma 2008). Djeho was another individual who has been well documented and aided with burials (Kozma 2008). Individuals with dwarfism also had religious importance, including the gods Bes and Ptah (Kozma 2008). Individ­uals with dwarfism were also considered to hold magical significance, and this was seen in spells and religious texts (Kozma 2008). Additionally, there is an abundance of artistic representation of individuals with dwarfism, in the form of statues, sarcophagi, and visual images (Kozma 2008). The Walters Art Museum is also a significant holder of Egyptian art, with many depictions of dwarfism (Kozma 2010). These individuals were significant in ancient Egyptian society and were well documented in several forms.


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Copyright (c) 2020 Kody Engele