Tag: deformity

Deformed skull of prehistoric child suggests that early humans cared for disabled children

By Ed Yong | March 30, 2009 5:00 pm

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed ResearchFor all appearances, this looks like the skull of any human child. But there are two very special things about it. The first is that its owner was clearly deformed; its asymmetrical skull is a sign of a medical condition called craniosynostosis that’s associated with mental retardation. The second is that the skull is about half a million years old. It belonged to a child who lived in the Middle Pleistocene period.

The skull was uncovered in Atapuerca, Spain by Ana Gracia, who has named it Cranium 14. It’s a small specimen but it contains enough evidence to suggest that the deformity was present from birth and that the child was about 5-8 years old. The remains of 28 other humans have been recovered from the same site and none of them had any signs of deformity.

These facts strongly suggest that prehistoric humans cared for children with physical and mental deformities that would almost have certainly prevented them from caring for themselves. Without such assistance, it’s unlikely that the child would have survived that long.

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