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Chapter 2

ANT 372 Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Paleopathology, Pubic Tubercle, Paleodemography

Course Code
ANT 372
Maria Smith

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Archaeology of Disease
Chapter 2
Back to Basics
The most important information to interpret the evidence for health disease in skeletal
o The age of the individual.
o The sex of the individual.
o The demographic profile of the population under study.
o The person’s height.
o The person’s ancestry.
Changing population pattern may have a bearing on modern disease and its possible causation.
o Important factors:
The rate and pattern of growth of the population.
The relationship of these to epidemic disease.
Famine and technological innovations.
The whole complex interrelationship of these to changing birth and death rates.
Population Growth Through Time
Population growth occurs when birth rates exceed death rates.
Thomas Malthus (1798) if a population increases faster than its means of subsistence it will be
subject to the checks of war, famine, and disease.
The first two periods of upsurge:
o Increased food.
o Increased material prosperity.
o A decrease in death rates.
o A consequent mastery of the environment by newly found technologies.
The consequence of having people live longer and also of low birth rates in developed countries
is that the provision of medical care and state support in the form of pensions is very stretched.
Population Growth, Mortality, and Disease
Absolute population size will determine what diseases can appear and be maintained in a
The occurrence of disease may limit the growth of a population and indeed eliminate it.
Hunter-gatherers ten to suffer from chronic endemic infections until the development of larger
permanent settlements and the occurrence of acute infectious disease.
While infectious disease was a significant cause of death after the development of agriculture
up until the development of industrial nations, now it is the chronic degenerative diseases of old
age such as heart disease that claim lives.
Paleopathology and the Question of Numbers
First step to understanding why some diseases were more prevalent than others in the past:
know how many people were at risk of becoming ill.
Examining the prevalence of disease for a population may be possible only in a general sense.
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