| 9 February 2017
12,000 year old prostate stones earliest ever found
Italian and British researchers investigating the prehistoric cemetery of Al Khiday on the left bank of the White Nile in central Sudan in 2013 found the oldest known prostate stones, in the pelvic area of an adult male burial.
The team investigated some 2300 square kilometres in the prehistoric cemetery, recovering 190 graves of three different periods, from between 12,000 and 2,000 years ago. The oldest, dated as pre-Mesolithic, included 94 individuals, including the male affected by prostate stones.
The man was buried facedown, as the majority of the pre-Mesolithic burials. One stone was found between the pelvic bones and two close to the lumbar vertebrae. Tests ruled out the possibility they were either kidney stones or gallstones. A scanning electron microscope showed a peculiar structure made from calcium apatite crystals and an unusual form of calcium phosphate, clearly pointing to the prostate as the stones' origin.
Anthropological investigation revealed that the tall pre-Mesolithic men and women of Al Khiday were rather healthy, and did not suffer from chronic disease, apart from bad teeth. Apart from the prostate stones, no significant disease was found.
Prostate stones are rather common in adults, though usually very small and asymptomatic. The walnut- size stones found in the burial suggests a mechanical obstruction to the urinary tract, which would have made the man's life miserable. He may have experienced lower back pain or leg pain, difficulties and pain when urinating, and may have died of eventual kidney failure.
According to bio-archaeologist Michaela Binder, a research associate at the Austrian Archaeological Institute in Vienna, "Finding such a disease in association with a skeleton from an archaeological site opens a new window into health and living conditions in the past."
Team co-leader Donatella Usai says: "Our finding confirms this disease can no longer be considered a disease of the modern era. It also affected prehistoric people, whose lifestyle and diet were significantly different from ours."
Edited from Seeker (31 January 2017)
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