Prehistoric eye disease (trachoma?) in Australian Aborigines

Date of this Version


Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Details

Citation only

Webb, S. (1990). Prehistoric eye disease (trachoma?) in Australian Aborigines. American Journal of Physical Anthroplogy, 81 (1), 91-100.

Access the journal's website.

© Copyright Wiley-Liss, Inc., 1990




This paper discusses an as yet undescribed lesion of the orbit in Australian Aboriginal skeletal populations. The rather high frequency and geographical distribution of the lesion suggests an association with a common, chronic eye infection. Using differential diagnosis to eleminate a variety of ophthalmic conditions, it is proposed that chronic trachoma may be a possible causative agent. Distribution of the lesion follows that of trachoma among contemporary Aboriginal people, with the highest frequencies occurring in the hotter, arid portions of the Australian continent. It is positively correlated with age, with higher frequencies in older people; it is almost completely absent among sub-adults. The antiquity of the lesion is demonstrated by its appearance among late Pleistocene human remains.



This document has been peer reviewed.