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Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Publication details for Professor Charlotte Roberts

Roberts, C.A. (2013). The bioarchaeology of health and well-being: its contribution to understanding the past. In The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Death and Burial. Stutz, L.N. & Tarlow, S. Oxford University Press. 79-98.

Author(s) from Durham


This contribution describes the study of palaeopathology, the history of its development, analytical methods used, types of studies done, and its future. Palaeopathology has developed at different rates globally. Methods focus on visual/macroscopic analyses, with histological/biomolecular more recently developed. ‘Case’, population, and methodological studies characterize palaeopathology. Population studies are less common in the UK, compared with the US. Future studies in palaeopathology could explore contemporary health problems, as defined by the World Health Organization. Palaeopathology is contributing to our knowledge of past human behaviour. It is increasingly integrated with archaeological/historical data. Newly developed analytical methods generate more nuanced data than was previously possible. Future prospects are good, but attention needs to be paid to more publication of the grey literature, debates surrounding the curation of skeletal remains for teaching/research, and loss of human remains to reburial; a wider dialogue is advocated between all interested parties on these challenges.