Possible congenital hemolytic anemia in prehistoric coastal inhabitants of Israel

I. Hershkovitz, B. Ring, M. Speirs, E. Galili, M. Kislev, G. Edelson, A. Hershkovitz

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Abstract

The spread of thalassemia among prehistoric populations of the Mediterranean Basin has been linked to the increased risk to early agriculturalists posed by the Plasmodium falciparum parasite. The diagnosis of the disease in human skeletal remains, however, has usually been based on a single pathological criterion, porotic hyperostosis. This paper reports on what we believe to be the earliest case of thalassemia yet identified in the prehistoric record. Our diagnosis of the disease in an individual from the submerged Prepottery Neolithic B village of Atlit‐Yam off the Israeli coast is based on a pathological humerus demonstrating a pattern of deformation characteristic of clinical thalassemia. The implications of these findings for our understanding of human societies undergoing the transition from foraging to agriculture in the Near East are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-13
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Volume85
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1991

Keywords

  • Prepottery Neolithic
  • Thalassemia, Malaria

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