Why Certain Poor Shepherds In Nativity Scenes Have Huge, Misshapen Throats

A horn player (left) in this detail from a 1694 altar carving by Francesco Antonio d

In some historical Nativity scenes, the shepherds have grossly enlarged thyroid glands — also known today as goiter. It's an apparent symbol of their poverty and iodine-deficient diet.

(Image credit: Renzo Dionigi)