Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Neanderthal Tumor Is 120,000 Years Old

Thursday, June 06, 2013

ZAGREB, CROATIA—Evidence of a bone tumor has been discovered in a 120,000-year-old Neanderthal fossilized rib fragment from Croatia. Although the fossil was excavated more than 100 years ago, previous studies of it did not recognize the signs of fibrous dysplasia, a non-cancerous growth that replaces spongy bone with a soft mass. “They range all the way from being totally benign, where you wouldn’t recognize them, to being extremely painful. The size of this one, and the bulging of it, probably caused the individual pain,” said David Frayer of the University of Kansas. High quality x-rays and micro CT scanning detected the bone’s abnormalities, which are caused by a spontaneous genetic mutation.