Paleopathology: A Twenty-first Century Perspective

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter emphasizes primary sources, while also including products of human alimentary processes and ancient organisms associated with remains. The term “ancient” might imply that paleopathology focuses exclusively upon archaeological and historical contexts. Archaeological skeletons have been studied to assess whether abnormal bone loss and bone loss leading to increased risk of fractures are very recent phenomena attributable to contemporary lifestyles or if today's patterns extend into deep time. Trauma, cranial deformation, arthropathies, infectious disease, congenital anomalies, and tumors were, however, reported by the end of the nineteenth century. In developing differential diagnoses, paleopathologists commonly follow either a clinical, case-based approach or an epidemiological strategy. Recovered from mummies, coprolites, and archaeological deposits such as privies, the remains of parasites, their eggs, nits, and tracks provide key evidence of disease, community health, host diet, and migration history, as well as cultural and climatic change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationA Companion to Biological Anthropology, Second Edition
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781119828075
ISBN (Print)9781119828044
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • archaeological skeletons
  • arthropathies
  • community health
  • congenital anomalies
  • epidemiological strategy
  • infectious disease
  • paleopathologists
  • paleopathology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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