A 2- to 3-year-old child from a Romano-Christian-period cemetery in Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt, shows evidence of physical child abuse, archaeologists have found, according to a reprt in discovery.com. The child, who lived around 2,000 years ago, represents the earliest documented case of child abuse on record, and the first case ever found in Egypt, researchers say.

The Dakhleh Oasis in Egypt’s Western Desert has been a human enclave since the Neolithic period, making it the focus of several archaeological investigations, said lead researcher Sandra Wheeler, a bioarchaeologist at the University of Central Florida.


When the researchers came across the abused toddler — labeled “Burial 519″—nothing seemed out of the ordinary at first. But when Wheeler’s colleague Tosha Duprasbegan brushed the sand away, she noticed prominent fractures on the child’s arms.

“She thought, ‘Whoa, this was weird,’ and then she found another fracture on the collarbone,” Wheeler said. “We have some other kids that show evidence of skeletal trauma, but this is the only one that had these really extreme fracture patterns.”

While no particular fracture is diagnostic of child abuse, the pattern of trauma suggests it occurred. Additionally, the injuries were all in different stages of healing, which further signifies repeated non-accidental trauma.