Bone Tumor Identified in 120,000-Year-Old Rib of Neandertal
From Famous Cave Excavation Site of Krapina in Central Europe
PHILADELPHIA, PA, June 2013—The first-known definitive case of a benign bone tumor has been discovered in the rib of a young Neandertal who lived about 120,000 years ago in what is now present-day Croatia. The bone fragment, which comes from the famous archaeological cave site of Krapina, contains by far the earliest bone tumor ever identified in the archaeological record. Details of the tumor confirmation, announced by an international research team led by Penn Museum Associate Curator and Paleoanthropologist Janet Monge, is available in a research paper, "Fibrous dysplasia in a 120,000+ year old Neandertal from Krapina, Croatia," in the online scientific journal PLOS ONE.
Joining Dr. Monge on the research team were Morrie Kricun, Department of Radiology, University of Pennsylvania; Jakov Radovcic and Davorka Radovcic, Croatian Natural History Museum; Alan Mann, Department of Anthropology, Princeton University; and David Frayer, Department of Anthropology, University of Kansas.
Bone tumors are exceptionally rare finds in the evolutionary fossil and archaeological records of human prehistory, with the earliest known instances, before now, dating to 1,000 to 4,000 years ago. Primary bone tumors are rare in modern populations, thus, finding a tumor in a fossil so old is a unique discovery.
From a u-CT scan and an X-ray, researchers identified a fibrous dysplastic neoplasm—today, the most common form of benign bone tumor in humans—located on a Neandertal left rib fragment that measured 30 mm (4 ½ inches) long. Judging by the size of the rib fragment, at the end of the rib that joins to the vertebrae, the rib belonged to a young male Neandertal, probably in his teens. Though he died young, and fibrous displasia is a developmental disorder of bone, there are no other known fossils that can be attributed to this individual, and there is not enough evidence to determine if this was or contributed to the cause of his death, according to Dr. Monge.
The confirmation of this tumor, Dr. Monge believes, may have implications for scholars studying the relationship between Neandertals and modern humans. "This tumor may provide another link between Neandertals and modern peoples, links currently being reinforced with genetic and archaeological evidence. Part of our ancestry is indeed with Neandertals—we grow the same way in our bones and teeth and share the same diseases."
About the Kaprina Archaeological Record and Past Research
Paleoanthropologists continue to debate the exact relationship between homo sapiens, or humans today, and Neandertals—an extinct species who lived throughout Eurasia from as early as 600,000 years to as late as 30,000 years ago. One of the most important early Neandertal sites was discovered in modern-day Croatia in 1899, when Dragutin Gorjanovic-Kramberger, Director of the Geology and Paleontology Department of the National Museum and Professor of Paleontology and Geology at Zagreb University, alerted by a local schoolteacher, first visited the Krapina cave and noted cave deposits, including a chipped stone tool, bits of animal bones, and a single human molar. Beginning that year, and continuing through six years, Gorjanovic-Kramberger and his associates completely, and for that era, carefully, excavated the cave. By 1905, Krapina had yielded more hominid remains than any other site known at the time.
In the 1990s, the Penn Museum was invited to study the radiographic images of the famous Krapina Neandertal fossil bone collection. The team identified 874 human remains, representing more than 75 individuals—the largest such collection of Neandertal remains from one locale. Looking for signs of pathology, disease, and weakness in a group of hominids long thought by many to have "died out" in classic Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest style, the team's ultimate diagnosis was surprising: these Neandertals were in large part a robust, healthy people. The researchers, Janet Monge among them, shared the results of their studies in a 1999 book, The Krapina Hominids: A Radiographic Atlas of the Skeletal Collection, published by the Republic of Croatia.
Not among the skeletal fossils, however, was the rib now identified as having the bone tumor. At the time of the Krapina excavations, it was mistakenly identified and placed in a faunal collection. In 1986, it was discovered by TD White (University of California, Berkeley) and N Toth (Indiana University, Bloomington) and preliminarily identified as a pathological specimen by M Kricun and J Monge in 1999. It was not until scholars could employ u-CT scans and analysis that the exact nature of the pathology was identified.
About the Penn Museum
The Penn Museum (the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) is dedicated to the study and understanding of human history and diversity. Founded in 1887, the Museum has sent more than 400 archaeological and anthropological expeditions to all the inhabited continents of the world. With an active exhibition schedule and educational programming for children and adults, the Museum offers the public an opportunity to share in the ongoing discovery of humankind's collective heritage. www.penn.museum
Photo: Krapina rib fragment (120.71) with tumor and a healthy rib fragment from Krapina (120.6). Photos of bone courtesy L. Mjeda (Zagreb).
New BIOMOLECULAR aRCHAEOLOGICAL Evidence
Points to the Beginnings of Viniculture in France
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9,000 Year Old Ancient Near Eastern “Wine Culture,” Traveling Land and Sea,
Reaches Southern Coastal France, Via Ancient Etruscans of Italy, in 6th-5th Century BCE
PHILADELPHIA, PA June 3, 2013—France is renowned the world over as a leader in the crafts of viticulture and winemaking—but the beginnings of French viniculture have been largely unknown, until now.
Imported ancient Etruscan amphoras and a limestone press platform, discovered at the ancient port site of Lattara in southern France, have provided the earliest known biomolecular archaeological evidence of grape wine and winemaking—and point to the beginnings of a Celtic or Gallic vinicultural industry in France circa 500-400 BCE. Details of the discovery are published as “The Beginning of Viniculture in France” in the June 3, 2013 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Dr. Patrick McGovern, Director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and author of Ancient Wine: The Search for the Origins of Viniculture (Princeton University Press, 2006) is the lead author on the paper, which was researched and written in collaboration with colleagues from France and the United States.
For Dr. McGovern, much of whose career has been spent examining the archaeological data, developing the chemical analyses, and following the trail of the Eurasian grapevine (Vitis vinifera) in the wild and its domestication by humans, this confirmation of the earliest evidence of viniculture in France is a key step in understanding the ongoing development of what he calls the “wine culture” of the world—one that began in the Turkey’s Taurus Mountains, the Caucasus Mountains, and/or the Zagros Mountains of Iran about 9,000 years ago.
“France’s rise to world prominence in the wine culture has been well documented, especially since the 12th century, when the Cistercian monks determined by trial-and-error that Chardonnay and Pinot Noir were the best cultivars to grow in Burgundy,” Dr. McGovern noted. “What we haven’t had is clear chemical evidence, combined with botanical and archaeological data, showing how wine was introduced into France and initiated a native industry.
“Now we know that the ancient Etruscans lured the Gauls into the Mediterranean wine culture by importing wine into southern France. This built up a demand that could only be met by establishing a native industry, likely done by transplanting the domesticated vine from Italy, and enlisting the requisite winemaking expertise from the Etruscans.”
Combined Archaeological, Chemical, and Archaeobotanical Evidence Corroborate Discovery
At the site of Lattara, merchant quarters inside a walled settlement, circa 525-475 BCE, held numerous Etruscan amphoras, three of which were selected for analysis because they were whole, unwashed, found in an undisturbed, sealed context, and showed signs of residue on their interior bases where precipitates of liquids, such as wine, collect. Judging by their shape and other features, they could be assigned to a specific Etruscan amphora type, likely manufactured at the city of Cisra (modern Cerveteri) in central Italy during the same time period.
After sample extraction, ancient organic compounds were identified by a combination of state-of-the-art chemical techniques, including infrared spectrometry, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, solid phase microextraction, ultrahigh-performance liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry, and one of the most sensitive techniques now available, used here for the first time to analyze ancient wine and grape samples, liquid chromatography-Orbitrap mass spectrometry.
All the samples were positive for tartaric acid/tartrate (the biomarker or fingerprint compound for the Eurasian grape and wine in the Middle East and Mediterranean), as well as compounds deriving from pine tree resin. Herbal additives to the wine were also identified, including rosemary, basil and/or thyme, which are native to central Italy where the wine was likely made. (Alcoholic beverages, in which resinous and herbal compounds are more easily put into solution, were the principle medications of antiquity.)
Nearby, an ancient pressing platform, made of limestone and dated circa 425 BCE, was discovered. Its function had previously been uncertain. Tartaric acid/tartrate was detected in the limestone, demonstrating that the installation was indeed a winepress. Masses of several thousand domesticated grape seeds, pedicels, and even skin, excavated from an earlier context near the press, further attest to its use for crushing transplanted, domesticated grapes and local wine production. Olives were extremely rare in the archaeobotanical corpus at Lattara until Roman times. This is the first clear evidence of winemaking on French soil.
The Broader Picture
For nearly two decades, Dr. McGovern has been following the story of the origin and expansion of a worldwide “wine culture”—one that has its earliest known roots in the ancient Near East, circa 7000-6000 BCE, with chemical evidence for the earliest wine at the site of Hajji Firiz in what is now northern Iran, circa 5400-5000 BCE. Special pottery types for making, storing, serving and drinking wine were all early indicators of a nascent “wine culture.”
Viniculture—viticulture and winemaking—gradually expanded throughout the Near East. From the beginning, promiscuous domesticated grapevines crossed with wild vines, producing new cultivars. Dr. McGovern observes a common pattern for the spreading of the new wine culture: “First entice the rulers, who could afford to import and ostentatiously consume wine. Next, foreign specialists are commissioned to transplant vines and establish local industries,” he noted. “Over time, wine spreads to the larger population, and is integrated into social and religious life.”
Wine was first imported into Egypt from the Levant by the earliest rulers there, forerunners of the pharaohs, in Dynasty 0 (circa 3150 BCE). By 3000 BCE the Nile Delta was being planted with vines by Canaanite viniculturalists. As the earliest merchant seafarers, the Canaanites were also able to take the wine culture out across the Mediterranean Sea. Biomolecular archaeological evidence attests to a locally produced, resinated wine on the island of Crete by 2200 BCE.
“As the larger Greek world was drawn into the wine culture, “ McGovern noted, “the stage was set for commercial maritime enterprises in the western Mediterranean. Greeks and the Phoenicians—the Levantine successors to the Canaanites—vied for influence by establishing colonies on islands and along the coasts of North Africa, Italy, France, and Spain. The wine culture continued to take root in foreign soil—and the story continues today.”
Where wine went, so other cultural elements eventually followed—including technologies of all kinds and social and religious customs—even where another fermented beverage made from different natural products had long held sway. In the case of Celtic Europe, grape wine displaced a hybrid drink of honey, wheat/barley, and native wild fruits (e.g., lingonberry and apple) and herbs (such as bog myrtle, yarrow, and heather).
About the Penn Museum
The Penn Museum (the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) is dedicated to the study and understanding of human history and diversity. Founded in 1887, the Museum has sent more than 400 archaeological and anthropological expeditions to all the inhabited continents of the world. With an active exhibition schedule and educational programming for children and adults, the Museum offers the public an opportunity to share in the ongoing discovery of humankind's collective heritage. Penn Museum website: www.penn.museum.
The Penn Museum in Philadelphia Presents Summer Wonder Series,
Family-Friendly Programs Featuring Music, Dance, Storytelling, and More
Wednesday Mornings, 11:00 am–12:00 pm, July 3 through August 21
For the most updated information on programs offered at the Penn Museum, and for online pre-registration (optional or required for some programs) visit the Museum's website: www.penn.museum/calendar.
Black Bodies in Propaganda: The Art of the War Poster
Opens at the Penn Museum June 2, 2013
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PBS History Detective Host Tukufu Zuberi Curates Unique Collection
of Propaganda Posters
An Outdoor Concert Series Showcasing Global Music
Wednesday Evenings at the Penn Museum
Philadelphia READS! Community Night Wednesday, April 10 at the Penn Museum
Kicks off a Month-Long Children's Book Drive
The Science of Conservation and Preservation Takes Center Stage
at a Philadelphia Science Festival Signature Event
Seventeen Partnering Organizations Join to Offer a Behind-the-Scenes Perspective
at the Penn Museum Wednesday, April 24, 5:00 to 8:00 pm
Shake Your Sekere!
Saturday, March 2, 1:00–4:00 pm
Runs Weekly July 1 through August 23, 2013
For the most updated information on programs offered at the Penn Museum and for online pre-registration (optional or required for some programs) visit the Museum's website: www.penn.museum/calendar.
Anniversary of Founding Celebrated With 12-hour Open House 10 am to 10 pm Thursday, December 6, 2012
Museum Launches Online Excavation Timeline, Publishes Special Expedition Magazine Issue, as Part of Celebration