Neanderthals weren't smoking cigarettes. They weren't breathing in pollution. They weren't eating processed foods. They weren't dealing with pesticides. Nope. But apparently, Neanderthals still got cancer. This 120,000-year-old bone fragment reveals a cancerous tumor. Neanderthals, they're just like us.

Advertisement

The case of fibrous dysplasia in this Neanderthal bone is believed to be the oldest tumor ever found. It predates other tumors by a 100,000 years, which ain't no small chunk of change. David Frayer, an anthropologist at the University of Kansas and co-author of the paper revealing this discovery, theorizes:

"They didn't have pesticides, but they probably were sleeping in caves with burning fires. They were probably inhaling a lot of smoke from the caves. So the air was not completely free of pollutants—but certainly, these Neanderthals weren't smoking cigarettes."

To discover the tumor, the researchers used a micro-CT scan machine which cuts up an image into different frames. The 1.18-inch long Neanderthal rib bone was sliced to 500 distinct frames which let researchers study every micron of the bone, thus revealing the tumor. [PLOS ONE via National Geographic via Neatorama]