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Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Publication details for Professor Charlotte Roberts

Roberts, CA & Brickley, M (2018). Infectious and metabolic diseases: a synergistic bioarchaeology. In Biological anthropology of the human skeleton. Katzenberg, MA & Grauer, AL Wiley. 415-446.

Author(s) from Durham


Palaeopathologists have a long history of recording and interpreting evidence for infectious and metabolic diseases seen globally in preserved bodies and skeletons from archaeological sites. People today often experience co-morbidities, as did our ancestors, but little specific research in paleopathology has addressed synergies between these two categories of disease. The chapter starts by introducing these health challenges from a clinical perspective, and then considers the types of evidence used to detect them in the past, and the many methods available for recording and interpretation (macroscopic, biomolecular, histological, imaging, parasite analysis). This is followed by exploring links between leprosy and tuberculosis and vitamin D deficiency, leprosy and osteopenia/osteoporosis, the Developmental Origins Hypothesis and metabolic and infectious disease, and Paget’s disease of bone and infection. It is concluded that palaeopathology is in an excellent position, theoretically and methodologically, to contribute to our understanding of disease synergies in the past, thereby providing the evolutionary time depth for present understanding.