Human Exceptionalism

Tribe of 4000 Years Ago Cared for Disabled

Archeologists working on an ancient site in Vietnam have found strong evidence that people there 4000 years ago cared well for people with disabilities.  From the New York Times story:

Almost all the other skeletons at the site, south of Hanoi and about 15 miles from the coast, lie straight. Burial 9, as both the remains and the once living person are known, was laid to rest curled in the fetal position. When Ms. Tilley, a graduate student in archaeology, and Dr. Oxenham, a professor, excavated and examined the skeleton in 2007 it became clear why. His fused vertebrae, weak bones and other evidence suggested that he lies in death as he did in life, bent and crippled by disease.

They gathered that he became paralyzed from the waist down before adolescence, the result of a congenital disease known as Klippel-Feil syndrome. He had little, if any, use of his arms and could not have fed himself or kept himself clean. But he lived another 10 years or so. They concluded that the people around him who had no metal and lived by fishing, hunting and raising barely domesticated pigs, took the time and care to tend to his every need.

What? No euthanasia of the disabled, as in the Netherlands? No suicide clinics to which disabled attend, as in Switzerland?  No health care rationing based on “quality adjusted life years” as in the UK?  No ancient Kevorkians with carbon monoxide cannisters or Final Exit Network types with their helium and plastic bags?  Hmmm. Perhaps they were more advanced than some contemporary cultures.


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