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KNM-ER 1808

Image of Homo erectus; KNMER-1808 femoral cross section
KNM-ER 1808
Exhibit Item
Site: Koobi Fora, Kenya
Year of Discovery: 1974
Discovered by: Kamoya Kimeu
Age: About 1.7 million years old
Species: Homo erectus

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.

Page last updated: March 30, 2016