Paleopathology:A Novel Perspective For Biomedical History

Laura Ottini, Raffaele Palmirotta, Paola Catalano, Renato Mariani-Costantini


Through the analysis of the direct evidence provided by ancient human remains, paleopathology sheds light on the history of diseases, and supplies data that complement ancient historical and medical sources. Since its beginnings, this field of study has been based on multidisciplinary approaches. In the XIX century, paleopathology developed in association with the growth of medical and of anthropological museums. Presently, in Italy and in several other countries, paleopathology links the field of general and anatomic pathology with that of history of medicine. In modern museums of history of medicine paleopathological exhibits contribute to the understanding of ancient medical practices, and document the expression of disease in the societies of the past. In the Museum of History of Medicine of the University of Rome "La Sapienza' paleopathology is illustrated using skeletal and mummified specimens, that can be interpreted with the aid of a specific educational program, available through computer. The exhibit is focused on material that mostly derives from the Roman imperial age, studied in collaboration with the Archaeological Superintendence of Rome. 


Key words: Paleopathology - History of Medicine - Museal expositions 

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