Pilgrim's progress a painful affair. The skeleton of a 15th centuary pilgrim buried fully clothed and still wearing leather walking boots has provided fresh insight into the hardships of medieval travellers.
More than 500 years after his death, the condition of the pilgrim's remains - found in Worcester Cathedral, Worcester, England - shows that a life of arduous walks left him with severe arthritis in his legs, toes, spine, ribs and pelvis. As well as causing him "considerable pain", this led to fusion of some bones of the spine, coccyx, ribs and sternum that would have had a crippling effect, said Mr Philip Barker, the consultant archeologist studying the skeleton.
The stocky, thick-set pilgrim must have led an adventurous life - his skeleton bears the scars of two arrowheads on his left thigh. He survived the attack to die in his sixties.The skeleton, buried with a pilgrim's staff and cockleshell badge, was discovered by accident during excavation work in 1986. Mr Barker said it was the first time a clothed pilgrim buried with his staff had been found in Britain.
The cockleshell, pierced for attachment as a badge, was reminscent of the scallop shell pilgrim tokens associated with the shrine of St James at Compostela, north-west Spain. When a medieval York monk suffered a bad knee injury, he received treatment from the best specialists of the day, involving two copper plates being tied around the knee with leather thongs for support - a treatment recommended by Hippocrates 2,000 years before. But it left him permanently disabled and in pain, said Mr Christopher Knusel, of Bradford University.
Excavations from a churchyard near York have shown that osteoporosis is not a modern disease - it was widespread from the 11th to 15th centuries, said Dr Simon Mays of English Heritage's Ancient Monuments Laboratory, who studied 700 skeletons.
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