Vertebral lesions have been the main evidence for infection by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis
complex (MTC) in paleopathology. Skeletal involvement is expected in a small percentage of infected individuals. Recently, several authors report a correlation between rib lesions and tuberculosis (TB) complex infection. This study tests the hypothesis that rib lesions can serve as a useful marker for MTC infection within the Mississippian Schild skeletal collection from West-Central Illinois. Ribs from 221 adults and juveniles were examined, and affected individuals were tested for TB complex infection. DNA from rib samples of affected individuals was amplified with primers targeting the IS6110 insertion element, which is common to all members of the TB complex. Although it cannot allow discrimination between different species of TB, IS6110 is present in many copies within their genomes, and its presence is thus an indication of MTC infection. The results support the use of rib lesions as a marker for TB infection. Additionally, we demonstrate that MTC DNA can be recovered from ribs that lack lesions in individuals who have lesions of other bones. We recommend that an examination of ribs be incorporated into investigations for TB.