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Oldest Evidence of Cancer in Humans Found in Siberia

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posted on Dec, 7 2014 @ 02:29 PM
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The 4,500 year-old remains of a man exhumed from a small hunter-gatherer cemetery in the Cis-Baikal region of Siberia contain what might be the oldest evidence thus far collected of metastatic carcinoma in humans.

From The Archaeology News Network (via Obscuragator):

In situ photograph of Gorodishche II, Burial 3. Image: Angela Lieverse/Univ of Saskatchewan


When he passed, his community buried him in a fetal position in a circular pit. Unlike most men of this period, who would have been buried lying on their back with fishing or hunting gear, he was laid to rest with an ornamental bone and a bone spoon, intricately carved with a winding serpent handle. The researchers estimate he would have been between 35 to 40 years old. Lieverse and her team performed a differential diagnosis on the man’s remains, just as if he had died recently. After ruling out possibilities such as tuberculosis or fungal diseases, the most likely culprit was metastatic carcinoma, that is, cancer that starts in one part of the body and spreads.


Bones bearing a mixture of lesions. Image: Angela Lieverse/ University of Saskatchewan


Lieverse explained that ancient skeletons exhibiting signs of cancer are quite rare, sparking the hypothesis that the disease is mostly a recent phenomenon, reflecting various aspects of our modern lifestyle. Siberia’s Cis-Baikal is a vast, mountainous region northwest of Lake Baikal. It is the deepest freshwater lake on earth, home to the world’s only freshwater seal, which would have made up part of the man’s diet, along with fish, wild game and seasonal plants—there were certainly no processed foods on the menu.


His death was likely an excruciating ordeal as lesions were found all over his body — from the tops of his legs to his skull. I think this may explain his atypical burial pose. The research, published in the journal PLOS One, should help researchers identify signs of cancer in other ancient skeletal remains where it has been overlooked.

The man's remains are 2,000 years older than those of the famous tattooed Siberian mummy, the Ice Princess/Ice Maiden/Princess of Ukok, which made headlines in October when it was announced that Russian scientists had determined that the woman likely died of a combination of breast cancer and injuries sustained in a fall and that she'd possibly used marijuana to treat her symptoms.

Prior to this discovery, the oldest evidence of cancer in humans was believed to be in the 3,200 year-old skeletal remains of a man buried in a tomb in Africa, unearthed in 2013 and announced in March of this year.
edit on 2014-12-7 by theantediluvian because: (no reason given)




posted on Dec, 7 2014 @ 02:45 PM
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a reply to: theantediluvian

Poor bastard. An article of great interest AD thanks for putting it up.



posted on Dec, 7 2014 @ 02:57 PM
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a reply to: Hanslune

Terrible way to go. I know there's evidence of opium poppy collection dating back at least this far in locations ranging from at least Spain to India, so maybe this guy had some access to analgesics.

I just noticed that looking at the photo of the remains in situ, one of the lesions is quite prominent on the skull.



posted on Dec, 7 2014 @ 03:05 PM
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a reply to: theantediluvian

It's like one of humanity's oldest companions...grim. Cancer tumours were referred to in the 3500 year old Edwin Smith Papyrus. 'No treatment' iirc.

In some ways, I see these examples as high points in the way we treat those we love. The deceased must have been well looked after to survive the ravages of spreading cancers for so long. Today we have hospices, but it seems we were frequently just as caring in the distant past. Even that Shanadar (sp?) Neanderthal was looked after and valued right up to his death and beyond.

Off into a parallel aside...I read that the cancerous tumour in the Tasmanian Devil population is amongst the oldest life-forms we know of. I say 'is' (singular) as the way it's been transmitted apparently means it's remained unchanged for centuries and is essentially the same tumour despite being split across thousands of individuals across time.



posted on Dec, 7 2014 @ 06:43 PM
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originally posted by: Kandinsky
a reply to: theantediluvian

It's like one of humanity's oldest companions...grim. Cancer tumours were referred to in the 3500 year old Edwin Smith Papyrus. 'No treatment' iirc.

In some ways, I see these examples as high points in the way we treat those we love. The deceased must have been well looked after to survive the ravages of spreading cancers for so long. Today we have hospices, but it seems we were frequently just as caring in the distant past. Even that Shanadar (sp?) Neanderthal was looked after and valued right up to his death and beyond.

Off into a parallel aside...I read that the cancerous tumour in the Tasmanian Devil population is amongst the oldest life-forms we know of. I say 'is' (singular) as the way it's been transmitted apparently means it's remained unchanged for centuries and is essentially the same tumour despite being split across thousands of individuals across time.


The skeletons of Shanidar caves



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