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Rising above a prehistoric handicap.

Rising above a prehistoric handicap

Bones recovered from a grave in southern Italy more than 20 years ago have provided scientists with evidence of the earliest known case of dwarfism in the human record. The partial skeleton is that of an adolescent male who lived about 11,150 years ago, according to a report in the Nov. 5 NATURE.

The skull and limb bones of the youth closely match the features found in an inherited bone disease known as acromesomelic dysplasia, say anthropologist David W. Frayer of the University of Kansas in Lawrence and his colleagues. At the time of his death the young man was about 3 1/2 feet tall and probably would not have reached 4 feet as an adult. Persons with this type of bone disease are usually of normal intelligence and have no serious medical problems.

The youth was buried in a cave with several individuals of normal stature. He appears to have been a member of a nomadic group of hunter-gatherers, say the researchers, although the bone disease severely limited his ability to contribute to subsistence activities. His handicap was, however, tolerated by the group. Not only did the youth survive to about 17 years of age, note the scientists, but he was buried in a cave reserved for individuals of high status. The site was an important social and ritual center, they add, with a long prehistoric occupation.
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Title Annotation:discovery of earliest known case of dwarfism
Publication:Science News
Date:Nov 21, 1987
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