KNM-ER 1808

Vitamin overdose

This 1.7 million-year-old femur (thigh bone) of a Homo erectus female shows how scientists can sometimes determine an individual’s cause of death, even after fossilization. An abnormal outer layer of bone on her thigh shows evidence of bleeding just before death. After consulting doctors and accounts of wilderness explorers, researchers concluded that an overdose of vitamin A—perhaps from eating a carnivore’s liver, which concentrates vitamin A—caused the bleeding and her death.

Image of Homo erectus; KNMER-1808 femoral cross section
KNM-ER 1808
Exhibit item
Koobi Fora, Kenya
Date of discovery: 
Discovered by: 
Kamoya Kimeu
About 1.7 million years old
Homo erectus