History and development of paleopathology

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Abstract

In the nineteenth century, accurate descriptive studies, often dealing with pre-Columbian “syphilis,” were made by Virchow, J. Jones, and Putnam. Hrdlička, Moodie, Ruffer, and others in the early twentieth century carried out research on subjects ranging from trephination to schistosomiasis. However, it was not until Hooton, Williams, Stewart, Wells, and others (1930 to 1965) that paleopathology was combined with paleodemography to get a population perspective on health as an equilibrium with disease. Not until recently, with the creative summaries of Jarcho and Brothwell, have we had bone pathologists (Lent Johnson and especially Putschar) and others (Moseley in blood, Cockburn and Allison in epidemiology and mummies) working actively with physical anthropologists and historians. This cooperation has triggered a major revival in the study of bone physiology and responses to disease (Ortner), disease ecology, demography and health, and paleonutrition (Goldstein, Laughlin, Cook and Buikstra, Ubelaker, Angel). New techniques range from histology to immunochemistry and now involve a host of young investigators.

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