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An evaluation of auditory exostoses in 621 prehistoric human skulls from coastal Brazil

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August 1, 2007
by Maria Mercedes M. Okumura, PhD; CĂ©lia Helena C. Boyadjian, BA; Sabine Eggers, PhD
Auditory exostoses are bone anomalies located on the floor of the external auditory canal. They frequently develop in individuals who participate in water sports and other aquatic activities. Their etiology is probably multifactorial; development seems to be triggered by regular exposure to cold water, as well as to low air temperatures and/or cold winds. The presence of auditory exostoses has been recorded in human skull fossils that date back approximately 250,000 years. We conducted a study of auditory exostoses in 621 skulls of adult humans who had been part of a marine-dependent population that lived on the Brazilian coast between 5,400 and 800 years ago. The overall frequency of exostoses was 22%, but there was a great variance among different subgroups (0 to 56%). In this article, we propose some possible explanations for this variance. We also hope that our study will stimulate multidisciplinary research aimed at deciphering the intricate bony messages contained in cryptic archaeologic remains.

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