Paleoanthropologists diagnose deafness and balance problems in 100,000-year-old Sapiens

(ORDO NEWS) — Paleoanthropologists examined the 100,000-year-old skull of Dar es Soltan-II-H5, found in 1975 in Morocco. It turned out that this individual suffered from partial ossification of the bony labyrinth.

The development of this pathology, apparently, led to complete hearing loss, dizziness and balance problems. This is reported in an article published in the International Journal of Paleopathology.

In 1975, researchers led by French archaeologist Andre Debenath excavated the Dar es Soltan II cave in the vicinity of the Moroccan city of Rabat.

Among the finds from this monument were the remains of ancient people: a fragmented skull (predominantly the left half of the face was preserved) with a lower jaw (H5), the lower jaw of a young man (H4) and the skull cap of a child (H3).

Archaeologists have attributed these finds to the Middle Stone Age. Judging by optically stimulated luminescence, the age of these finds is about 100,000 years. However, some other methods suggest that the fossils are no more than 75,000–85,000 years old.

The skull of Dar-es-Soltan-II-H5 belonged to an adult individual. Paleoanthropologists have interpreted its morphology as intermediate between a 315,000-year-old individual from Jebel Irhoud and representatives of the Epipaleolithic Ibero-Moorish culture.

Some morphological features of this find were even described as Neanderthal. Perhaps, the morphology of the skull indicates that in Morocco in that era there was a mixture of emerging people of the modern anatomical type (Homo sapiens) and other hominids.

A team of scientists led by Jean-Jacques Hublin of the Max Planck Society’s Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology conducted a new study of the Dar-es-Soltan-II-H5 skull.

With the help of microcomputed tomography, paleoanthropologists decided to find out the features of the anatomy of the bony labyrinth of the inner ear of this individual.

They noted that the morphology of the temporal bone and the inner ear is an important indicator in terms of the evolutionary development of hominids.

Thus, this feature was used in many works to distinguish Neanderthals (H. neanderthalensis) from people of the modern anatomical type.

As a result of the study, scientists found that the semicircular canals involved in the regulation of balance when changing the position of the head and body in space turned out to be partially ossified in places where this should not be.

Paleoanthropologists diagnosed this individual with labyrinthitis ossificans (literally, ossifying labyrinthitis). Such a pathological condition could be the cause of permanent hearing loss, various kinds of dizziness and balance problems.

The scientists concluded that the pathology could have developed due to a chronic ear infection. The person probably died a few months after the development of the pathology, since he would hardly have been able to hunt or otherwise obtain food for himself.

The only other example of an ancient hominid with a similar pathology, the researchers named an individual from the locality of Singa (H. helmei), whose skull was found in Sudan back in 1924.


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