Paleopathology

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Paleopathology

 

the branch of science dealing with pathological changes in plants and animals that existed on earth in the geologic past. Traces of disease and trauma have been discovered in the remains of many plants and animals, as well as in man throughout his evolution, beginning with Pithecanthropus man and Neanderthal man.

Paleopathological research has made it possible to study the origin, frequency, and spread of diseases. It also helps in estimating the medical knowledge of folk healers (seeFOLK MEDICINE). The older the specimen, the greater the likelihood of discovering expressed traces of worn-out osteoarticular apparatus—extensive spondyloses and arthroses. These conditions result from overwork and the accumulation of microtraumas. The sequelae of tuberculous spondylitis, osteomyelitis, and many other diseases have also been observed. The most severe form of spondyloarthritis ankylopoietica was discovered in a man about 45 years old who was buried at some time from the tenth to the 12th century.

It was formerly believed that syphilis did not exist among the ancient inhabitants of the Old World but was imported from America. However, there is indisputable evidence that inhabitants of the Old World, beginning in the Neolithic, did suffer from the disease. The Soviet scientists D. G. Rokhlin and A. E. Rubasheva described a case of syphilitic disease of the bones in an inhabitant of Transbaikalia in the first century B.C. Traces of benign and primary malignant tumors of bones have been observed, as have cancerous metastases in bones. Many diseases of the teeth have been discovered. Also observed in early human remains has been evidence of rickets, Urov disease (osteoarthrosis deformans endemica), gout, osteitis deformans, frostbite, and other pathological changes in the osteoarticular apparatus.

Paleopathologic research has established that in the Stone and Iron Ages, specifically in what is now the USSR, a number of surgical procedures were performed without complications, for example, trephination of the skull.

Paleopathology involves anatomical analysis of bones from archaeological digs, roentgenography, microscopy, and stereo-microscopy. Museums of human paleopathology are of great scientific value. The oldest such museum is in Paris. In the USSR the most extensive collection is that of the museum of paleopathology of the department of roentgenology and radiology at the First Leningrad Medical Institute.

REFERENCES

Rokhlin, D. G. Bolezni drevnikh liudei (Kosti liudei razlichnykh epokh —normal’nye i patologicheski izmenennye). Moscow-Leningrad, 1965.
Derums, V. Ia. Bolezni i vrachevanie v drevnei Pribaltike. Riga, 1970.
Regöly, Mérei G. Az ösemberi és késöbliembou maradványok rendszeres kór bonetana. Budapest, 1962. (Bibliography.)

V. IA. DERUMS

References in periodicals archive ?
Fox, Wiener Laboratory, American School of Classical Studies at Athens: archaeological science, human osteology, palaeopathology
Conference speakers and participants represent a broad spectrum of interests in palaeopathology, mummification, applied technology and analytical methods, bog bodies, mortuary archaeology, conservation, and museology.
Written by an international team of experts, this book provides the first truly integrated methodological and biocultural approach to human palaeopathology.
A British specialist in osteoarchaeology and palaeopathology, Roberts presents a guide to interpreting human remains for the benefit of students studying the archaeological evidence in classrooms, archaeologists actually working in the field, researchers, historians and other academic kindred, and lay readers.
Green, Michael 1982 A review of enamel hypoplasia and its application to Australian palaeopathology, unpublished BA honours thesis, Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, Australian National University, Canberra.