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In Ancient Peru, Archaeologists Find Rare Spinal Condition And Possible Inbreeding

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Emma Martin
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An extremely rare condition of the spine, in which an extra lumbar vertebra is present, was recently discovered in nearly one-fifth of burials in an ancient Peruvian cemetery.

Could this inherited genetic condition be the result of inbreeding?

Research at the Moquegua Valley site of Rio Muerto, a cemetery associated with Tiwanaku and dating to 500-1100 AD, was presented at last week’s American Association of Physical Anthropologists conference by Sara K. Becker of the University of California, Riverside and her colleagues.

They found 14 cases of sixth lumbar sacralization – both the presence of an extra bone in the lower back and the fusion of that bone with the sacrum at the back of the pelvis.

While normal human anatomy includes 7 cervical, 12 thoracic, and 5 lumbar vertebrae, it is not uncommon to have an extra bone, to lack a bone somewhere in the spinal column, or to see a slight difference in arrangement of the vertebrae.

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