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J Anthropol Sci. 2014;92:257-71. doi: 10.4436/JASS.92005.

Evidence of rickets and/or scurvy in a complete Chalcolithic child skeleton from the El Portalón site (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain).

Author information

1
Laboratorio de Evolución Humana, Dpto. de Ciencias Histoacute;ricas y Geografía, Universidad de Burgos,Edificio I+D+i, Plaza Misael Bañuelos s/n. 09001 Burgos, Spain, mcastilla@universidaddeburgos.es.
2
Laboratorio de Evolución Humana, Dpto. de Ciencias Históricas y Geografía, Universidad de Burgos, Edificio I+D+i, Plaza Misael Bañuelos s/n. 09001 Burgos, Spain; Centro UCM-ISCIII de Investigación sobre Evolución y Comportamiento Humanos, Avda. Monforte de Lemos 5, 28029 Madrid, Spain.
3
Centro UCM-ISCIII de Investigación sobre Evolución y Comportamiento Humanos, Avda. Monforte de Lemos 5, 28029 Madrid, Spain; Departamento de Geografía y Geología, Universidad de Alcalá de Henares, 28871 Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, Spain.
4
Centro UCM-ISCIII de Investigación sobre Evolución y Comportamiento Humanos, Avda. Monforte de Lemos 5, 28029 Madrid, Spain; Departamento de Paleontología, Facultad de Ciencias Geológicas, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Ciudad Universitaria s/n, 28040 Madrid, Spain.

Abstract

A case of what are most likely metabolic diseases is identified in a child buried during Chalcolithic times in the El Portalón site (Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain). The skeleton has been directly dated by C14 to between 5030 to 5020 Cal BP. Macroscopic analysis and a CT scan reveal a set of lesions both in the skull and the long bones, which indicate that this individual probably suffered from rickets and scurvy at different stages of his/her life. The lesions are bilateral and are characterized by abnormal porosity, new bone formation and deformation of long bones. The presence of non-specific stress indicators, such as enamel hypoplasias and Harris lines, allow us to establish two times of stress associated with these pathologies: one crisis during infancy (1-3 yrs) and subsequently a second crisis at the beginning of childhood (3-5 yrs). The etiology of both metabolic diseases could be associated with abnormal feeding during these stages of life and/or the living conditions of these populations, e.g., the preparation of food and/ or the existence of infections caused by the transmission of pathogens and unhealthy hygiene. Evidence of metabolic diseases during the recent European Prehistory is rather unknown and very few cases have been reported. Thus, the child from El Portalón can add relevant information about the life and health conditions of these prehistoric populations.

PMID:
25020019
DOI:
10.4436/JASS.92005
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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