Disease in Prehistory
Anthropology 275
Tu/Th 9:25 AM- 10:40 PM

Professor: Kate Pechenkina, Ph. D.
office: Powdermaker Hall 312A
telephone: (718) 997-5529
office hours: Tu 4:00-4:30, Th 3:00-4:00 PM

     This course is a general introduction to the field of paleopathology. Paleopathology is a subfield of biological anthropology that encompasses the study of disease in antiquity using a variety of sources of information, including human mummified and skeletal remains, ancient documents, illustrations from early books, painting and sculpture from the past, and analysis of coprolites. We will begin by examining the concept of disease and the basic diagnostic criteria for different categories of disease. Next, we will focus on infectious diseases and examine their origins, the environmental factors that have affected their spread in human populations, and their impact on human cultures. We will then take a close look at human dietary adaptations and the physiological disorders associated with different subsistence practices. After the mid-term exam we will then go on to address heritable diseases and the role of environmental factors in their origin and evolution. That will be followed by an examination of the process of senescence, degenerative diseases, and traumas in communities whose contrasting resource procurement strategies result in different modes of regular physical activity. In a comprehensive review at the end of the semester, we will discuss global trends in community health and how the distribution of several disease groups was affected by increasing sedentism and settlement nucleation, the development of agriculture, agricultural intensification, urbanization, colonial expansion, and industrialization.
Your grade will be based on midterm and final exams, and four short quizzes, participation and reading assignments:
Lecture Quiz/Exam Schedule
Reading reports and participation 20 %
Quizzes 20 %
Midterm (3/17) 30 % covers lectures 1-13
Final (TBA) 30 % covers lectures 14-28

Reading reports: Reports on the assigned readings are expected at the beginning of each class. The course pack is composed of research papers, book chapters, and excerpts from the popular literature. Some of the research articles are very technical and you may find them difficult to follow. In such cases, please try to read with an eye toward understanding the general theme(s) and conclusions of the article without worrying too much about the details. I will provide you with a few specific questions to help further guide your reading. You are expected to incorporate your answers to those questions into your reading reports. Reports on the literature assigned for that day are due at the beginning of each class. Each reading report should be approximately a page long, typed in Times New Roman, 12 pt. font, 1.5 spaced, printed with 1 inch margins. It should begin with a proper bibliographic citation of the literary source and should provide a brief summary and critique of the paper, article, or book chapter. Late reports are accepted for 60% of the total credit. By the end of the semester you will be expected to have submitted reports for a total of 20 papers, articles, or book chapters.

Lecture Date Topic Reading
1 2/1 Class introduction, classification of diseases.
2 2/3 Basic terminology
see hand-out
Roberts & Manchaester 1995: Ch 1
Reading report 1
3 2/8 Biology of skeletal tissue Robling & Stout 2000
Reading Report 2
4 2/10 Quiz 1(basic terms, human skeleton)
Types of skeletal lesions and their interpretation
Lovell 2000
Reading Report 3
5 2/15 Infectious diseases and immune system, co-evolution Larsen ch. 3
Diamond 1999: Ch 11.
Reading Report 4
6 2/17 Tuberculosis and leprosy Ortner 2003, Chapter 10
Mostowy & Behr: 2005
Reading Report 5
7 2/22 Tuberculosis in the New World Gˇmez i Prat & Mendonša de Souza 2003
Reading Report 6
8 2/24 Treponematosis, origin of venereal syphilis Baker & Armelagos 1988
9 3/01 Quiz 2 (infections and immune system)
Syphilis through the ages, other bacterial infections
Quetel 1-49
Reading Report 7
10 3/03 Archaeoparasitology
Schistosome life cycle
Carvalho Goncalves et al. 2002
Martinson et al. 2003
11 3/08 Eukaryotic Parasites: Malaria, Hookworms Capasso 1998
Hawdon and Johnston 1996
Reading Report 8
12 3/10 Viral Infections: Smallpox, Rubella Li et al. 2007
13 3/15 Viral Infections: HIV, review Life Cycle of HIV Hutchinson 2001
Reading Report 9
14 3/22 Congenital diseases, review Roberts and Manchester, Ch 3
15 3/24 Physiological stress: anemia, scurvy, rickets Larsen chapter 2
Reading Report 10
16 3/29Physiological stress: osteological paradox Blom et la. 2005
Write and Chew 1999
Reading Report 11
17 3/31Degenerative Desieases Roberts & Manchester. 1995.
Ch 6. Rogers and Waldron 2001
Reading Report 12
18 4/05Parturition, birth complications Arriaza et al 1988
Sewell 1993
Ortner 119-163
19 4/07 Ancient medical practices
Queez 3: (physeological stress, degenerative diseases)
Ortner 163-174
No classes!!!
AAPA meetings anf Spring Recess
20 4/28 Neoplastic Diseases Roberts and Manchester, Ch 9Reading Report 17
21 5/03 Disease during the Paleolithic Formicola and Buzhilova 2004
Formicola et al. 2001
Reading Report 17
22 5/05 Health index Steckel et al. 2001
Reading Report 18
23 5/10 Quiz 4 (diseases of early humans)
Vaccination and antibiotics, diseases in the 17th - 19th centuries
New diseases, transatlantic exchanges
Hays 1998, pp 106-134
Reading Report 19
24 5/12 Epidemiology of the last 50 years Barrett et al. 1998
Reading Report 20
25 5/17
Recommended books:
Hays, J. N. 1998. The Burdens of Disease: Epidemics and Human Response in Western History. New Brunswick, N.J. Rutgers University Press. An electronic book accessible through the World Wide Web: http://www.netlibrary.com/
Larsen, C. S. and G. R. Milner (editors) 1994. In the wake of contact. New York: Wiley-Liss.
Larsen, C. S. 1997. Bioarchaeology. Interpreting behavior from the human skeleton. Cambridge: University Press.
Levy, H. S. 1966. Chinese footbinding. The history of a curious erotic custom. New York: Walton Rawls.
Roberts, C. and K. Manchester. 1995. The archaeology of Disease. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Quetel, C. 1990. The history of syphilis. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Diamond, J. 1999. Guns, germs, and steel. New York: W. W. Norton.
Ortner, D. J. 2003. Identification of pathological conditions in human skeletal remains. Second Edition. Amsterdam: Academic Press.