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Chapter 1

ANT 372 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Osteoclast, Hypertrophy, Lesion

Course Code
ANT 372
Maria Smith

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Archaeology of Disease
Chapter 1
The Study of Paleopathology
Paleopathology examines the evolution and progress of disease through long periods of time
and looks at how humans adapted to changes in their environment.
o Biocultural approach (combining biological and cultural data).
Defined by Sir Marc Armand Ruffer in 1910.
Concentrates on primary and secondary sources.
o Primary sources derives from skeletons.
o Secondary sources include documentary and iconographic data.
In antiquity, diseases with the greatest impact in terms of mortality, personal disfigurement, or
social and economic disruption probably evoked the greatest response from society.
History of Study
The history of the development of paleopathology can be categorized in four phases:
o Antecedent (Renaissance to mid-nineteenth century)
Concentrated on prehistoric animals.
End of this period first application of the microscope to examining Egyptian
mummified tissue.
o Genesis (mid-nineteenth century to First World War)
Much more anthropological focus.
Large skeletal collections were available for study.
o Interbellum Consolidation Phase (1913-1945)
Paleopathology expanded.
Methods beyond visual examination were used more often to investigate
pathological lesions and improve diagnosis.
Characterized by the introduction and gradual standardization both of new
methods and of new interpretive concepts, resulting in the emergence of
paleopathology as a scientific discipline.
o New Paleopathology (1946 present)
Marked by an increased recognition of the link between paleopathology and
epidemiology and demography.
Much more of a focus on raising hypotheses and testing them with skeletal data
from large numbers of individuals.
Moves away from a particularistic concern with individual lesions or skeletons
to a population-based perspective on disease processes.
A focus on developing standardized methods for collection paleopathological
The use of biomolecular methods of analysis has seen a considerable increase in
use since the early 1990s.
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