Archaeological Perspectives toward Medicine and Global Health

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC (2017)

With recent outbreaks of infectious diseases such as Ebola and Zika and rising rates of chronic disease such as asthma and obesity worldwide, there has been a growing awareness of the urgency to develop novel approaches to public health and the investigation of disease. As biomedical and genomic research generate new data, knowledge, and methods of treatment, many questions remain about the evolution, proliferation and history of a number of conditions of global health concern. Archaeology, as both a methodological approach and an analytical framework, has a unique potential to contribute to these efforts. In particular, collaborations with the biological and ecological sciences can produce a finer-grained narrative of how specific diseases and health conditions proliferated in the past, and the ways in which humans have responded to these issues. When combined with social theory and history, these approaches offer a historical perspective that can inform preventative and treatment strategies for the future. This session aims to showcase archaeological research into issues related to global health and medicine to date, and to offer a creative space for archaeologists to shape discourse that will drive future investigations.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-5 of 5)

  • Documents (5)

  • The Body as Machine, the Body as Commodity, and the Body as a Temple: Treatments of Enslaved African Laborers on Buena Muerte Sugar Estates in Cañete, Peru (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Claire K. Maass.

    From its arrival in Lima in 1709 until the abolition of slavery in 1854, La Orden de la Buena Muerte was among the largest slaveholders in the sugar industry of Cañete, Peru. Moreover, as an order explicitly founded to oversee the physical and spiritual well-being of marginalized communities, the Buena Muerte also played a critical role in public health programs throughout the region. These activities were grounded in fundamentally different, and often opposing, perspectives towards the...

  • Class and reproductive control: birth control access and hygiene among prostitutes in turn of the century northern Idaho (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Mark Warner.

    Excavations of two brothels in the northern Idaho town of Sandpoint presented a unique opportunity to explore the nuances of economic differences in the lives of two groups of prostitutes. Over 100,000 artifacts were recovered, providing a rich accounting of a brothel that catered to local mill workers and a brothel whose clientele was more affluent. Further, such a large volume of materials resulted in the recovery of relatively esoteric materials such as douching nozzles and a variety of...

  • Pills and Potions at the Niagara Apothecary (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Dena Doroszenko.

    In 1964, pharmacist E. W. Field, closed his practice in Niagara-on-the-Lake due to ill health. This pharmacy had been in operation for a total of 156 years by 6 pharmacists, 5 of whom had been apprenticed to their predecessors. Re-opened in 1971 as an authentic restoration of an 1866 pharmacy, the building is owned by the Ontario Heritage Trust and curated by the Ontario College of Pharmacists. Several archaeological investigations have taken place in the rear yard of the apothecary, most...

  • Scale in health related research: Situating topographies of healthcare (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Meredith Reifschneider.

    The social production of scale in archaeology has figured prominently in research that aims to develop understandings of local, regional, national, and global processes by tacking between various scalar modalities. Oftentimes, ‘the global’ is posited as the causal and ultimate force, relegating ‘the local’ to the status of a case study. Within social science research more broadly, conceptualizations of scale have increasingly undergone complex formulations in order to address political processes...

  • Using Archaeological and Genomic Data to Investigate the Evolutionary History of Celiac Disease (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Hannah Moots.

    The Neolithic Transition brought with it a number of changes in the relationships that people had with animals, plants and pathogens. Increasing proximity to domesticated and commensal animals, and larger, denser communities shifted the disease ecologies of these communities and resulted in an increasing number of disease vectors. I use ancient and modern DNA to look at the effects that these new dietary and epidemiological trends had on people in the past and the genomic legacies of the...