Symmetrical erosive peripheral polyarthritis in the Late Archaic Period of Alabama

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Science  16 Sep 1988:
Vol. 241, Issue 4872, pp. 1498-1501
DOI: 10.1126/science.3047874


Rheumatoid arthritis was first described unambiguously in 1800, but its etiology and historical origins are still obscure. Definite rheumatoid arthritis has not been demonstrated in pre-19th century Old World skeletal remains. Six individuals who lived 3000 to 5000 years ago in northwestern Alabama and present erosive polyarthritis characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis are described. The diagnosis raises the possibility that rheumatoid arthritis can be associated with a New World pathogen or allergen.