BEIRUT

Sci&Tech

Skeleton from 3,200 years ago found with cancer

LONDON: Archaeologists have found the 3,200-year-old skeleton of a man with a spreading form of cancer, the oldest example so far of a disease often associated with modern lifestyles, scientists said Monday.

The remains of a man believed to be aged between 25 and 35 were found last year in a tomb in Sudan on the banks of the River Nile by a student at Durham University in northeast England.

The bones showed evidence of metastatic carcinoma, or a malignant soft-tumor cancer that had spread from the original site to other parts of the body, although it was not possible to say if the man died from the disease.

“This may help us to understand the almost unknown history of the disease. We have very few examples pre-the first millennium A.D.,” said Michaela Binder, the researcher who found the skeleton.

Small lesions on the bones could only have been caused by a soft tissue cancer, although the exact site where the disease originated was impossible to determine, she said.

The cause could have been environmental, for example from carcinogens from wood fire smoke, genetic or from the parasite schistosomiasis, which still causes bladder and breast cancer to this day in the area.

The research team from Durham University and the British Museum said that although cancer was currently one of the world’s leading causes of death, it had until now been almost absent from archaeological finds.

Worldwide, there had only been one convincing example of metastatic cancer predating the first millennium B.C. in human remains, and two tentative examples.

This had led to the conclusion among scientists that it is “mainly a product of modern living and increased longevity,” they added.

The skeleton was found in Amara West, 750 kilometers downstream from the Sudanese capital of Khartoum.

The man was buried on his back in a painted wooden coffin with a glazed amulet.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 19, 2014, on page 13.

Recommended

Advertisement

Comments

Your feedback is important to us!

We invite all our readers to share with us their views and comments about this article.

Disclaimer: Comments submitted by third parties on this site are the sole responsibility of the individual(s) whose content is submitted. The Daily Star accepts no responsibility for the content of comment(s), including, without limitation, any error, omission or inaccuracy therein. Please note that your email address will NOT appear on the site.

Alert: If you are facing problems with posting comments, please note that you must verify your email with Disqus prior to posting a comment. follow this link to make sure your account meets the requirements. (http://bit.ly/vDisqus)

comments powered by Disqus
Summary

Archaeologists have found the 3,200-year-old skeleton of a man with a spreading form of cancer, the oldest example so far of a disease often associated with modern lifestyles, scientists said Monday.

The bones showed evidence of metastatic carcinoma, or a malignant soft-tumor cancer that had spread from the original site to other parts of the body, although it was not possible to say if the man died from the disease.

Worldwide, there had only been one convincing example of metastatic cancer predating the first millennium B.C. in human remains, and two tentative examples.


Advertisement

FOLLOW THIS ARTICLE

Interested in knowing more about this story?

Click here