Research Topic

Ancient Diseases and Medical Care: Paleopathological Insights

About this Research Topic

Diseases are the oldest companions to humankind; they deeply influenced human evolution, history, and biology. One of the aims of paleopathologists is to trace back the antiquity of the diseases that plagued human beings throughout prehistoric and historic periods.
Thanks to a growing number of archaeological expeditions and excavation campaigns, a plethora of ancient human remains (fossils, scattered bones, skeletons, natural and embalmed mummies) and written records (e.g. papyri, ancient tablets, textbooks) have been recovered, The human remains and the related sources (e.g. papyri, stone tablets, wall paintings, statuettes) are time capsules: they allow paleopathologists to identify a great variety of diseases, to observe their natural course and to learn about ancient medical therapies and surgical procedures.

Paleopathological studies have greatly benefited from the advancement of medical techniques. These include paleoradiological, histological, paleoparasitological, paleogenetic investigations as well as the analysis of stable isotopes and dental calculus. Modern computed radiological investigations allowed non-invasive virtual unwrapping of the remains and three-dimensional visualization of the contents.
The improvement of archaeobotanical, biogeochemical, and paleoproteomic methods of investigations further helps scholars to determine if any remedies were administered to the patients to heal their diseases and which compounds were used in their postmortem treatment. In the meantime, a stock of information concerning the environment in which the ancient populations lived, their lifestyles, diet, material culture (trades and exchanges) can be reconstructed.

This Research Topic is open to contributions (case reports, original research, perspectives, mini-reviews and commentaries) focused on the retrospective diagnosis of ancient diseases in human remains and the analysis of textual medical sources and iconographic representations.


Keywords: paleopathology, mummies, human remains, medical remedies, ointments


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Diseases are the oldest companions to humankind; they deeply influenced human evolution, history, and biology. One of the aims of paleopathologists is to trace back the antiquity of the diseases that plagued human beings throughout prehistoric and historic periods.
Thanks to a growing number of archaeological expeditions and excavation campaigns, a plethora of ancient human remains (fossils, scattered bones, skeletons, natural and embalmed mummies) and written records (e.g. papyri, ancient tablets, textbooks) have been recovered, The human remains and the related sources (e.g. papyri, stone tablets, wall paintings, statuettes) are time capsules: they allow paleopathologists to identify a great variety of diseases, to observe their natural course and to learn about ancient medical therapies and surgical procedures.

Paleopathological studies have greatly benefited from the advancement of medical techniques. These include paleoradiological, histological, paleoparasitological, paleogenetic investigations as well as the analysis of stable isotopes and dental calculus. Modern computed radiological investigations allowed non-invasive virtual unwrapping of the remains and three-dimensional visualization of the contents.
The improvement of archaeobotanical, biogeochemical, and paleoproteomic methods of investigations further helps scholars to determine if any remedies were administered to the patients to heal their diseases and which compounds were used in their postmortem treatment. In the meantime, a stock of information concerning the environment in which the ancient populations lived, their lifestyles, diet, material culture (trades and exchanges) can be reconstructed.

This Research Topic is open to contributions (case reports, original research, perspectives, mini-reviews and commentaries) focused on the retrospective diagnosis of ancient diseases in human remains and the analysis of textual medical sources and iconographic representations.


Keywords: paleopathology, mummies, human remains, medical remedies, ointments


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

06 November 2020 Abstract
06 March 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

06 November 2020 Abstract
06 March 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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