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Keywords:

  • callus;
  • Early Pleistocene;
  • micro-fracture;
  • paleopathology;
  • periostitis

ABSTRACT

We present the palaeopathological analysis of a right fourth metatarsal (ATD6-124) recovered from the Atapuerca–Gran Dolina site (Spain). This fossil, ca. 1 Ma, belongs to Homo antecessor, the earliest known European hominin species. The metatarsal exhibits a proliferative lesion on its medial periosteal surface. Periosteal reaction can be the bone response to a wide number of injurious processes. We describe a lesion on the basis of macroscopic and microscopic analyses, including microtomography and scanning electron microscopy. Externally, the osteoblastic lesion presents a highly porotic and disorganised morphology. Internally, we observe a series of micro-fractures on the compact bone that do not affect the medullary canal. We provide a differential diagnosis and suggest that the ATD6-124 lesion could correspond to a pedal stress fracture, also known as fatigue or march fracture. Stress fractures have been related to a load increase and muscular fatigue. This type of fracture has been widely reported in the foot of soldiers and athletes, which are usually engaged in strenuous, excessive or prolonged locomotive activities. Despite its high frequency in these groups, stress fractures have not been reported as such in fossil collections, with the exception of a metatarsal belonging to the Sima de los Huesos site (Atapuerca). Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.