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Dec. 7, 2007

Read Dec. 7 News Release: Most Ancient Case of Tuberculosis Found in 500,000-Year-Old Human; Evidence Suggests Vitamin D Deficiency Endangers Migrating Populations

Although most scientists believe tuberculosis emerged only several thousand years ago, new research from The University of Texas at Austin reveals the most ancient evidence of the disease has been found in a 500,000-year-old human fossil from Turkey.

The discovery of the new specimen of the human species, Homo erectus, suggests support for the theory that dark-skinned people who migrate northward from low, tropical latitudes produce less vitamin D, which can adversely affect the immune system as well as the skeleton.

John Kappelman, professor of anthropology at The University of Texas at Austin, is part of an international team of researchers from the United States, Turkey and Germany who have published their findings in the Dec. 7 issue of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. The Leakey Foundation and the Scientific and Technical Research Council of Turkey funded the research.

Professor John Kappelman CAPTION
Professor John Kappelman of The University of Texas at Austin holding a plaster cast replica of the cranium of the newly discovered young male Homo erectus specimen from western Turkey. The fossil is 500,000 years old and was recovered from a block of travertine stone as it was being sawed into tiles for the building stone market.

CREDIT
Photo by Marsha Miller
View of the inside of a plaster cast of the skull of the newly discovered young male Homo erectus CAPTION
View of the inside of a plaster cast of the skull of the newly discovered young male Homo erectus from western Turkey. The stylus points to tiny lesions 1-2 mm in size found along the rim of bone just behind the right eye orbit. The lesions were formed by a type of tuberculosis that infects the brain and, at 500,000 years in age, represents the most ancient case of tuberculosis known in humans.

CREDIT
Photo by Marsha Miller
View of the inside of the skull of the newly discovered young male Homo erectus CAPTION
View of the inside of the skull of the newly discovered young male Homo erectus from western Turkey. The stylus is 2.5 cm long and points to tiny lesions 1-2 mm in size found along the rim of bone just behind the right eye orbit. The lesions were formed by a type of tuberculosis that infects the brain and, at 500,000 years in age, represents the most ancient case of tuberculosis known in humans.

CREDIT
Photo by John Kappelman
Reconstruction of the skull of a newly discovered young male Homo erectus superimposed over an active travertine quarry in western Turkey CAPTION
Reconstruction of the skull of a newly discovered young male Homo erectus superimposed over an active travertine quarry in western Turkey near where the fossil was found. The fossil is 500,000 years old and was recovered from a block of travertine like those seen on the floor of the quarry. It preserves evidence of the most ancient case of tuberculosis known in humans.

CREDIT
Photo illustration by John Kappelman

 

 

  Updated 07 December 2007
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