ABSTRACT

Understanding the pattern of disease and injury that afflicted our earliest ancestors requires the perspective of the paleopathologist. Sir Marc Armand Ruffer, one of the founders of paleopathology, defined paleopathology as the science of the diseases that can be demonstrated in human and animal remains of ancient times. Paleopathology provides information about health, disease, diet, nutritional status, death, environment, and culture in ancient populations. Paleoanthropology is a field in which new discoveries inevitably result in the reexamination of previous findings and great debates rage over the identification and classification of bits of bones and teeth. Paleopathologists must use a combination of primary and secondary evidence to draw inferences about prehistoric patterns of disease. Bone is a dynamic living tissue constantly being modified in response to growth and physiological or pathological stress. Clues to the existence of paleomedicine must be evaluated even more cautiously than evidence of disease.