Introduction: Scientific rigor in paleopathology

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This introductory chapter to the Special Issue on “Scientific Rigor in Paleopathology” serves to orient and introduce the chapters that follow through a detailed consideration of paleopathology as a 21st century intellectual field. In this vein, we first make the significant point that paleopathology is a profoundly interdisciplinary endeavor, encompassing aspects of the biomedical science, the humanities, and the social sciences. Thus, we suggest that no one practitioner can personally command the range of skills necessary for a 21st century paleopathologist. To maintain rigor in differential diagnosis, we emphasize collaborations and consider key concepts that illustrate the basic knowledge from each of these fields that any paleopathologist should command. We then address the manner in which disease diagnosis should proceed as a scientific endeavor. To illustrate scientific rigor in differential diagnosis, we present two case studies drawn from 1970s contributions by Cook and by Buikstra. Finally, we introduce Chapters 2-6, which address differential diagnosis in contexts ranging from specific conditions (scurvy, trepanation) to broader field-wide considerations (paleoparasitology, historical paleopathology, imaging, animal paleopathology).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)80-87
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Paleopathology
StatePublished - Dec 2017


  • Paleopathology
  • Rigor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Archaeology


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