Unusual osteological findings in sacred relics from the LESJE monastery in central Serbia

  • Danijela Djonic
  • Roger W. ByardEmail author
Lessons from the Museum


An adult male skeleton was submitted to the Department of Anatomy at the University of Belgrade for evaluation. It was believed to represent the remains of a second to third century Christian saint from the Lesje Monastery in central Serbia. Examination of the remains revealed an old crush fracture of a thoracic vertebra and an unusual, probably congenital, malformation of the atlanto-occipital joint with deformation of the left occipital condyle and resultant narrowing of the foramen magnum. Although the occipital malformations were most likely congenital, they may still have caused, or contributed to, death by compression of the underlying upper cervical spinal cord.


Foramen magnum Narrowing Death Skeleton Saint Lesje monastery 



This study was supported by grants from the Global Fund, Ministry of Health of Serbia, and Ministry of Science of Serbia (grant no III45005).

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

Permission for the examination was given by the official custodians of the remains at the Lesje Monastery, Serbia.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory for Anthropology, Institute of Anatomy, School of MedicineUniversity of BelgradeBelgradeSerbia
  2. 2.School of MedicineThe University of Adelaide, and Forensic Science South Australia (FSSA)AdelaideAustralia

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