Tuberculosis in Late Neolithic-Early Copper Age human skeletal remains from Hungary

Tuberculosis (Edinb). 2015 Jun;95 Suppl 1:S18-22. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2015 Feb 13.


Alsónyék-Bátaszék in Southern Hungary is one of the largest late Neolithic settlements and cemeteries excavated in Central Europe. In total, 2359 burials from the Late Neolithic - Early Copper Age Lengyel culture were found between 2006 and 2009 [1]. Anthropological investigations previously carried out on individuals from this site revealed an interesting paleopathological case of tuberculosis in the form of Pott's disease dated to the early 5(th) millennium BC. In this study, selected specimens from this osteoarcheological series were subjected to paleomicrobiological analysis to establish the presence of MTBC bacteria. As all individuals showing clear osteological signs of TB infection belonged to a single grave group, 38 individuals from this grave group were analysed. The sample included the case of Pott's disease as well as individuals both with and without osseous TB manifestations. The detection of TB DNA in the individual with Pott's disease provided further evidence for the occurrence of TB in Neolithic populations of Europe. Moreover, our molecular analysis indicated that several other individuals of the same grave group were also infected with TB, opening the possibility for further analyses of this unique Neolithic skeletal series.

Keywords: Carpathian basin; Late neolithic human samples; Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex; Skeletal tuberculosis; aDNA.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Child
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • Female
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Hungary
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / genetics
  • Paleopathology
  • Tuberculosis, Osteoarticular / genetics
  • Tuberculosis, Osteoarticular / history*
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • DNA, Bacterial