Send to

Choose Destination
Perspect Biol Med. 2005 Winter;48(1):105-23.

Deformity in the "Boxing Boys".

Author information

Department of Art History, Temple University, USA.


The late Bronze Age wall painting the Boxing Boys (c. 17th-16th century BCE) was excavated in the ancient town of Akrotiri on the Greek island of Thera. This article considers a medical interpretation for the spinal-pelvic anomaly in the anatomy of one of the boys. The artist has depicted a combination of structural anatomical adjustments diagnostic of spondylolisthesis, a forward slippage of one of the lumbar vertebrae. The accurate portrayal of the surface appearance of this condition suggests that the artist painted directly from a live subject. Thus, the Boxing Boys mural may be the earliest visual record of a sports-induced injury. Although the meaning of the wall paintings is unclear, the wild goats (agrimia) on the adjoining walls simulate swayback as a reflection of the boy's torso deformity and share other features with the boxers, adding to the unifying characteristics of the room. The abnormal morphology appears to be the earliest achievement of transforming disease into aesthetic charm on a monumental scale.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Project MUSE
Loading ...
Support Center