A retrospective study conducted by researchers from the Georgetown University hospital has revealed that dwarfs in ancient Egypt had received their much-deserved respect. An examination of the biological remains and other art forms demonstrated that dwarfism was not considered as a form of physical deformity.
Infact, ancient Egyptians even worshipped Gods with a short stature. Dwarfs also held authoritative positions in many households. The hot, dry climate and sophisticated burial formalities prevalent in Ancient Egypt facilitated for the analysis of preserved human remains in the form of complete and partial skeletons.
The earliest evidence of dwarfism dates back to as to early as 4500 BC, commonly referred to as the Predynastic period or Badarian period. Signs of dwarfism could also be found in several kingdoms from the Old Kingdom, believed to be existent from 2700 to 2190 BC.
Graphic representations of dwarfs found on vase paintings and tomb walls provided proof that they formed an integral part of the society. They were engaged in a variety of occupations such as care taking to dance and entertainment. Some of them were employed in animal care centers while some others held administrative positions. Those that formed a part of the Royal family and were even privileged to the extent of getting buried in the royal cemetery, in close proximity to the pyramids.
Two dwarf gods, namely Bes and Ptah were worshipped with unshakable faith. While Bes is believed to preserve sexual health and protect women and children, Ptah possessed regenerative powers. A temple that housed Bes was excavated in Baharia Oasis, in the middle of Egypt recently.
"The burial sites and artistic sources provide glimpses of the positions in daily life in ancient Egypt. 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. Wisdom writings and moral teachings in ancient Egypt commanded respect for dwarfs and other individuals with disabilities, " said Dr Chahira Kozma, one of the senior researchers in the study.
Dwarfism can be defined as a medical condition characterized by deficient adult height (4'10" or shorter). This definition is applicable to both men and women. Currently more than 100 different medical conditions have been identified to account for a disproportionate stature. Surprisingly, dwarfism is caused by a complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors, which are not completely understood.
The most common form of genetic disorder affecting growth is achondroplasia with an incidence of 1 in 25, 000. Contrary to the existing belief that dwarfs are only born to parents with dwarfism, it has been found that more than ¾ of dwarfs are born to parents of average size. This interesting research appears in the American Journal of Medical Genetics.
Moral of the Story! Probably, we still have a lot more to learn from our ancestors in terms of respecting disabled individuals and ensuring equal opportunities to them.