Human tuberculosis predates domestication in ancient Syria

Oussama Baker, Oona Y.-c. Lee, Houdini H.t. Wu, Gurdyal S. Besra, David E. Minnikin, Gareth Llewellyn, Christopher M. Williams, Frank Maixner, Niall O'sullivan, Albert Zink, Bérénice Chamel, Rima Khawam, Eric Coqueugniot, Daniel Helmer, Françoise L.e. Mort, Pascale Perrin, Lionel Gourichon, Bruno Dutailly, György Pálfi, Hélène CoqueugniotOlivier Dutour

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The question of pre-neolithic tuberculosis is still open in paleopathological perspective. One of the major interests is to explore what type of infection could have existed around the early stage of animal domestication. Paleopathological lesions evoking skeletal TB were observed on five human skeletons coming from two PPNB sites in Syria, which belongs to the geographical cradle of agriculture. These sites represent respectively pre-domestication phase (Dja'de el Mughara, Northern Syria, 8800-8300 BCE cal.) and early domestication phase (Tell Aswad, Southern Syria, 8200-7600 BCE cal.). MicroCT scan analyses were performed on two specimens (one per site) and revealed microscopic changes in favor of TB infection. Detection of lipid biomarkers is positive for two specimens (one per site). Initial molecular analysis further indicates the presence of TB in one individual from Dja'de. Interestingly, no morphological evidence of TB was observed on animal remains of wild and newly domesticated species, discovered in these sites. These observations strongly suggest the presence of human tuberculosis before domestication and at its early stages.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S4-12
Issue numberSupplement 1
Early online date26 Feb 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015


  • Paleopathology of TB
  • early neolithic
  • PPNB
  • agriculture cradle
  • domestication
  • Lipid biomarkers
  • Ancient DNA


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