The History of Palaeopathology and Palaeodemography

Document Type: Original Article


Department of Anatomy, Medical school, Lorestan University of Medical Sciences, Khorramabad, Iran


The symptoms of today’s disease can help scientist to take a diagnostic approach toward those of the ancient times. The knowledge of the survey of disease in the ancient times is called pathology. Ancient pathology focuses on the source, evolution and progression of diseases in the human groups in history. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a lot of precise and detailed descriptive research, often dealing with pre-Columbian “syphilis”, was performed. Then, in the early twentieth century a number of scholars, strived to carry out research on various issues, ranging from trephination to schistosomiasis. However, it was not until Hooton, Stewart, and some others who combined paleopathology with paleodemography that scientists succeeded to get a population perspective on health. More recently, Jarcho and Brothwell, working on bone pathologists, gained a better understanding of the ancient diseases of the mummies. This cooperation among scholars, the most prominent one being William Ortner, led to a revolution in the study of bone biology and responses to diseases. Owing to the spread of this knowledge in the world, the aim of this article is make readers familiar with this field, and encourage them to work in and promote this field, exploring the ancient legacy of this country.