Tetracycline-labeled human bone from ancient Sudanese Nubia (A.D. 350)

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Science  26 Sep 1980:
Vol. 209, Issue 4464, pp. 1532-1534
DOI: 10.1126/science.7001623


Nubian bone recovered from an X-group cemetery (A.D. 350 to 550) exhibits a pattern of fluorescence identical to that of modern tetracycline-labeled bone. When it is viewed under ultraviolet light at 490 angstroms, fluorophors are visible as a characteristic yellow-green fluorescence on surfaces that were actively mineralizing at the time of exposure. Contamination of stored grains provided the proper environment for cultivation of tetracycline-producing Streptomycetes. Evidence for exposure to antibiotics in an archeological population is relevant to studies of the evolution of R factors and to the interpretation of health and disease within the population.