Lead in Archeological Human Bones Reflecting Historical Changes in Lead Production

Yigal Erel*, Ron Pinhasi, Alfredo Coppa, Adi Ticher, Ofir Tirosh, Liran Carmel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Forty years ago, in a seminal paper published inScience, Settle and Patterson used archeological and historical data to estimate the rates of worldwide lead production since the discovery of cupellation, approximately 5000 years ago. Here, we record actual lead exposure of a human population by direct measurements of the concentrations of lead in petrous bones of individuals representing approximately 12 000 years of inhabitation in Italy. This documentation of lead pollution throughout human history indicates that, remarkably, much of the estimated dynamics in lead production is replicated in human exposure. Thus, lead pollution in humans has closely followed anthropogenic lead production. This observation raises concerns that the forecasted increase in the production of lead and other metals might affect human health in the near future.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)14407-14413
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number21
StatePublished - 2 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Published by American Chemical Society


  • diagenetic addition of metals
  • lead pollution
  • petrous bones


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