The results of the research were published in the recent issue of the journal Medical Hypotheses titled “Evidence of an ancient (2000 years ago) goiter attributed to iodine deficiency in North America.”
“In archaeological science, flesh does not survive, so many ancient maladies go unnoticed and are almost always impossible to get at from an archaeological standpoint,” says Tankersley. “So what struck me was how remarkably Bauduer was using ancient art from various periods of antiquity to argue for the paleopathology he presented.”
Using radiocarbon dating on textile and bark samples surrounding the pipe at the site, the Adena pipe dates to approximately 2000 years ago, to the earliest evidence of tobacco.
Traditionally, tobacco is considered a sacred plant to Native Americans in this region, and smoking tobacco played an important role in their ceremonies, but he points to tobacco smoking as being long associated with an increased prevalence of goiter in low iodine intake zones worldwide.
From a medical perspective, Bauduer found the physical characteristics, such as the short forehead and long bones of the upper and lower limbs, simply not adding up as an achondroplastic dwarf.
“We found the tumor in the neck, as well as the figure’s squatted stance — not foreshortened legs as was formerly documented in the literature — were both signs and symptoms of thyroid disease,” says Tankersley.
“We already know that iodine deficiencies can lead to thyroid tumors, and the Ohio Valley area, where this artifact was found, has historically had iodine depleted soils and water relative to the advance of an Ice Age glacier about 300,000 years ago.”