After studying the remains of individuals who lived in the Middle East and Eurasia during the Pleistocene Epoch, Washington University anthropologist Erik Trinkaus has discovered what he calls “an abundance of developmental anomalies” within this group of people.
As Phys.org has reported, the Pleistocene covers a rather large time period that extends from 2.6 million years ago and all the way up to 11,700 years ago, during the last Ice Age.
With previous studies showing that this was the time period in which modern humans first began developing, eventually departing from their native Africa, Trinkhaus has added some research to this early time and has also suggested that physical deformities may have been in abundance during the Pleistocene.
Trinkhaus based this observation on the careful examination and study of 66 fossils that were unearthed from different sites, with the vast majority of these fossils dating back to around 200,000 years ago. The remains that were studied belonged primarily to young adults who also represented different species of Homo that were in existence at the time.
The Pleistocene remains that were examined were found to have numerous physical deformities which include both arm and leg bones that were bowed and jaws and skulls that were not shaped correctly. Astonished by the many anomalies he noticed, Trinkhaus decided to compare the vastly high number of deformities found in these fossils with the remains of modern humans.
Out of the fossil samples of Pleistocene people that were studied, 75 different abnormalities showed up. When these figures were compared with a sample of modern humans, it was determined that two-thirds of the Pleistocene anomalies were present in just 1 percent or less of the modern humans that were looked at.
According to Trinkhaus, many of these abnormalities were identified as having an underlying cause or illness, such as people who would have been suffering from serious blood disorders or hydrocephaly. However, many of the afflictions that the Pleistocene people suffered from could not be linked to anything.
One of the most likely reasons for such a large number of fossil samples having been found with so many physical abnormalities is that a lot of the Pleistocene people were probably inbred. With such small hunter-gatherer groups at the time, this is a practice that may have been hard to avoid for many.
However, another explanation for so many physical anomalies being found in the fossils in these distinct locations is that these people may have once been given very special burials, which increased the chances that their remains would be found in relatively good condition later on.
The new study which shows that Pleistocene people had an unusually high number of physical anomalies has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.