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Joint Bone Spine. 2002 Dec;69(6):580-8.

Epidemiology of osteoarthritis and enthesopathies in a European population dating back 7700 years.

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University Paul Sabatier, UMR 8555 du CNRS, 39 allées Jules Guesde, 31000 Toulouse, France.



To investigate the epidemiology of bone changes related to degenerative joint disease and enthesopathies in the earliest Neolithic population identified in Europe (dated back 7700 years), to compare the findings with those in medieval and contemporary populations, and to draw etiological inferences.


Examination of the skeletal remains of 119 individuals older than 20 years of age at death and buried in two Central European cemeteries dated as far back as 7700 years (5700 BC).


The propensity for developing degenerative disease seemed to vary among individuals, as it does today. The hands, shoulder, and hip were common targets of osteoarthritis, as they are today, and the elbow was more likely to be affected in the Neolithic and medieval populations than in contemporary populations. When age of the individuals is taken into account, the prevalence of knee osteoarthritis does not seem to have changed substantially overtime.


These results attest to the major role of microtrauma in osteoarthritis of the upper limb joints. At the other joints, after correction for age, the prevalence of degenerative disease and the combinations of joint involvements have remained remarkably constant over time, suggesting a major role for genetic factors (bone formers) already present in European populations in the early Neolithic period.

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