The 5,000-year-old man was found with an extremely rare form of dwarfism

A skeleton found in China belonged to an individual with a rare form of dwarfism. (Credit: Halcrow et al. 2019)

Archaeologists found a “very rare” in China, they found a human skeleton with a rare form of dwarfism, according to a recent news release.

The skeleton was originally recovered from a burial site in the vicinity of the Yellow River in east-central China, along with other relics of people who lived between 3300 and 2900 B. C., Forbes reported. All of the skeletons were found with their hands placed on top of the body, with the exception of one, whose hands were hidden behind his back. The bones of this skeleton appeared to be short and feeble in comparison with the other skeletal remains; upon closer inspection, archaeologists found in a young adult with a skeletal dysplasia (also known as dwarfism.

A wide range of conditions fall under the umbrella term “skeletal dysplasia” but, in general, these conditions tend to interfere with bone development, and allowing individuals to grow up to be shorter than average in stature, as the authors pointed out in a report published Dec. 13, in the International Journal of Paleopathology. Skeletal dysplasia is relatively rare in modern human beings, who are of 3.22 out of every 10,000 births, but the condition of the crops is still less common in the archaeological finds to date, fewer than 40 cases have been identified. Of these, the majority of cases, represent a relatively common form of dwarfism, called achondroplasia, which causes the limbs to grow disproportionately less than that for the head and the body.

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However, archaeologists at the cemetery, I realized very quickly that they had stumbled upon a rare find. While the body parts of the skeleton appeared to be short, and the bones of the head, and the torso seemed to be too small. Judging by the bones, the teeth, the team determined that the remains belonged to a young adult, but it is the skeleton of the adult limb bones, it was not. The authors ‘ diagnosis of the Neolithic skeleton of a condition which is known as “proportionate dwarfism,” is rarely seen in the archaeology or in living human populations.

The team’s theory is that the skeleton is derived from a “pediatric onset hypopituitarism, and hypothyroidism,”, which means that the individual most likely has developed either an underactive thyroid or pituitary gland early in life. Both have an influence directly the function of hormones in the body, and without their support, tissues, and organs do not grow as they should. As the disease can stunt bone growth, cognitive development and heart and lung function; and the individual, has been discovered in China, is likely to be necessary “for the support of the other members of the community in order to survive, the authors noted.

In contrast to achondroplasia, which is usually caused by a genetic mutation of the thyroid gland, and the pituitary gland dysfunction is thought to be linked to a lack of essential nutrients, such as iodine. The rates of hypothyroidism, continue to be higher in China than in the united states, in part, due to the fact that many Chinese people still consume iodine-deficient diets, according to Forbes.

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Even though the short-statured skeleton that had been buried other than in the area of the tomb, the archaeologists do not know for sure whether or not and how the individual dealt with in the process. Confucian texts from the 4th century B. c., suggesting that people with physical differences should not be abandoned in the late Neolithic of China. (“When virtue has to be one of the most the body, it will be remembered,” the philosopher Zhuangzi once wrote.) However, this feeling clashes with the historical accounts from the 2nd century bc that will mean that people with dwarfism “has been viewed as” outsiders,” the authors noted.

“I think it’s important for us to recognize that disability and difference can be found, in the past, but they do not necessarily have negative connotations, socially and culturally,” co-author, Siân Halcrow, an archaeologist at the University of Otago, told Forbes. “The ancient texts to show that they can, in fact, have honored it in certain situations.”

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Originally published on Live Science.

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