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Palaeopathology and Evolutionary Medicine

An Integrated Approach

Edited by Kimberly A. Plomp, Charlotte A. Roberts, Sarah Elton, and Gilian R. Bentley

29 April 2022

ISBN: 9780198849711

384 pages

In Stock

Price: £80.00

First book to highlight the benefits of using palaeopathological research to answer questions about the evolution of disease and its application to current health problems, as well as the benefits of using evolutionary thinking in medicine to help interpret historical disease processes.



First book to highlight the benefits of using palaeopathological research to answer questions about the evolution of disease and its application to current health problems, as well as the benefits of using evolutionary thinking in medicine to help interpret historical disease processes.

  • The first book to fully integrate palaeopathology into evolutionary medicine with beneficial outcomes in terms of new insights for both disciplines
  • Cutting edge interdisciplinary research from a diverse range of specialists provides an innovative approach to evolutionary medicine
  • Each chapter addresses three fundamental questions: How does this research contribute to the understanding of the evolution of health and disease? How does palaeopathology offer a unique perspective or new understanding of the topic? How can this knowledge contribute to modern clinical research and medicine?

About the Author(s)

Edited by Kimberly A. Plomp, Associate Professorial Fellow and Chief of the Osteoarchaeology Laboratory, Archaeological Studies Program, University of the Philippines, Charlotte A. Roberts, Professor Emeritus, Department of Archaeology, Durham University, UK, Sarah Elton, Professor, Department of Anthropology, Durham University, UK, and Gilian R. Bentley, Professor, Department of Anthropology, Durham University, UK

Kimberly A. Plomp is a bioarchaeologist with expertise in palaeopathology and human evolution. She has a PhD in Anthropology and Archaeology from Durham University, UK and has held three postdoctoral posts at Simon Fraser University, Canada and the University of Liverpool, UK. She is now an Associate Professorial Fellow and Chief of the Osteoarchaeology laboratory in the Archaeological Studies Program at the University of the Philippines.

Charlotte A. Roberts is a bioarchaeologist with a background in general nursing. She has specific expertise in palaeopathology and has conducted research and teaching in bioarchaeology for around 40 years. Her academic career started at the University of Bradford, UK but worked at Durham University, UK for 20 years before retiring. Her key research areas focus on the origin, evolution and history of infectious diseases, she is passionate about engaging the public with her research, and works on ethical implications of studying archaeological human remains. She is a Fellow of the British Academy.

Gillian Bentley is a biosocial anthropologist who was previously a bioarchaeologist specialising in the ancient Near East. She later retrained in bioanthropology and has since focused on reproductive ecology, early life development, and migrant health. She has held a strong interest in evolutionary medicine for several years, publishing numerous articles in the field and creating one of the first Masters in Evolutionary Medicine at Durham University, UK. She is an Associate Editor of OUP's journal Evolution, Medicine and Public Health and was a founding member of the International Society for Evolution, Medicine and Public Health for which she is also a council member.

Sarah Elton is Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at Durham University, UK having previously worked at the Hull York Medical School, where she developed an interest in critical approaches to evolutionary medicine, complementing her overarching research interest on the ecological context for human evolution. Her primary research focuses on primate morphology, ecology and biogeography. In the field of evolutionary medicine, she co-edited, with Paul O'Higgins, Medicine and Evolution: Current Applications, Future Prospects (CRC Press, 2008). She co-authored, with Stanley Ulijaszek and Neil Mann, Evolving Human Nutrition: Implications for Public Health, (Cambridge University Press, 2012), and has also written on evolutionary nutrition for an international medical audience.

Table of Contents

    Foreword, Frank Rühli
    1:What's it all about? A legacy for the next generation of scholars in evolutionary medicine and palaeopathology, Kimberly A. Plomp, Charlotte A. Roberts, Sarah Elton, and Gillian R. Bentley
    2:Developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD): perspectives from bioarchaeology, Julia Gamble and Gillian Bentley
    3:Acquired spinal conditions in humans: the roles of spinal curvature, the shape of the lumbar vertebrae, and evolutionary history, Kimberly A. Plomp, Ella Been and Mark Collard
    4:Birthing humans in the past, the present and future: how birth can be approached holistically through an evolutionary medicine lens, Sarah-Louise Decrausaz and Frances Galloway
    5:Isotopic reconstruction of ancient human diet and health: implications for evolutionary medicine, Nicole Burt and Alexandra M. Greenwald
    6:Developmental, evolutionary, and behavioural perspectives on oral health, Tanya M. Smith and Christina Warinner
    7:Palaeoecology: considering proximate and ultimate influences in human diets and environmental responses in the early Holocene Dnieper River region of Ukraine, Malcolm C. Lillie and Sarah Elton
    8:Human resistance and the evolution of plague in Medieval Europe, Kirsten Bos and Sharon N. DeWitte
    9:Leprosy Is down but not yet out: new insights shed light on its origin and evolution, Charlotte Roberts, David M. Scollard and Vinicius M. Fava
    10:Preventable and curable, but still a global problem: tuberculosis from an evolutionary perspective, Charlotte A. Roberts, Peter D.O. Davies, Kelly E. Blevins and Anne C. Stone
    11:Evolutionary perspectives on human parasitic infection: ancient parasites to modern medicine., Marissa L. Ledger and Piers D. Mitchell
    12:Cardiovascular disease in ancient people and contemporary implications, Randall C. Thompson, Chris J. Rowan, Nicholas W. Weis, M. Linda Sutherland, Caleb E. Finch, Michaela Binder, Charlotte A. Roberts and Gregory S. Thomas
    13:Connecting palaeopathology and evolutionary medicine to cancer research: past and present, Carina Marques, Zachary Compton and Amy M. Boddy
    14:Stress in bioarchaeology, epidemiology, and evolutionary medicine: an integrated conceptual model of shared history from the descriptive to the developmental, Daniel H. Temple and Ashley N. Edes
    15:Metabolic diseases in bioarchaeology: an evolutionary medicine approach, Jonathan C. Wells, Nelissa Ling, Jay T. Stock, Hallie Buckley and William R. Leonard
    16:The palaeopathology of traumatic injuries: an evolutionary medicine perspective, Ryan P. Harrod and Anna J. Osterholtz
    17:Uncovering tales of transmission: an integrated palaeopathological perspective on the evolution of shared human and animal pathogens, Elizabeth W. Uhl and Richard Thomas
    18:Now you have read the book, what next?, Gillian Bentley, Charlotte A. Roberts, Sarah Elton and Kimberly A. Plomp
    Afterword, Jane Buikstra


"An impressive volume focusing on the integration of paleopathology—the study of disease, health and the challenges to health in the past—and evolutionary medicine—the study of health in an evolutionary context. The book successfully integrates the two fields, giving both new strengths and revised aspirations in addressing common goals. It offers new opportunities for the development of a more informed understanding of health and well-being, including, but not limited to, aging, reproductive health, immune function, inflammation, microbiomes, and diet and nutrition." - Evolution, Medicine, & Public Health

"Timely and forward-thinking, this decidedly collaborative work leads the fields of paleopathology and evolutionary medicine towards promising new directions. Kudos to the co-editors and all contributors for demonstrating that disease in the past and modern medicine can no longer be divided by "then" and "now", but rather, is bound by themes germane to humans throughout the millennia." - Anne L. Grauer, Department of Anthropology, Loyola University Chicago, USA

"This highly innovative and insightful volume brings together a wide range of topics and perspectives from a variety of disciplines. It both highlights the importance of taking a deep-time perspective to understanding our present health, and clearly demonstrates how this can be achieved through the presentation of a diverse range of studies that cover millennia of human history. The future of the field looks bright!" - Sarah Inskip, UKRI FLF, School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester, UK

"Palaeopathology and Evolutionary Medicine: An Integrated Approach is an impressive collection of contributions by a range of scientists working to apply emerging insights about the ancient past with contemporary medical challenges. Ambitious in the breadth of subjects covered, it presents not only a much needed and up-to-date view of the field, it offers a contextualized understanding of why and how ancient pathologies can be used to better understand contemporary medical challenges. " - Barbara Natterson-Horowitz MD, Harvard Medical School, UCLA Division of Cardiology, USA

"Finally, a comprehensive authoritative book on paleopathology! It has long been needed and puts paleopathology in its proper evolutionary framework, to the benefit of both fields. The dead really can teach the living! I was especially delighted to see detailed coverage of classic issues such as problems associated with the back and childbirth, integration with developmental biology, and coverage of crucial topics such as cancer, stress, and infectious disease. Highly recommended." - Randolph M. Nesse, Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology and the Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan; Center for Evolution and Medicine, Arizona State University, USA

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