A Global History of Health


The long-term goals are to use skeletons for measuring health at hundreds of burial localities of people who lived throughout the world over the past 10 millennia and to explore possible determinants. The proposed research builds upon an earlier but smaller project for the Western Hemisphere, which was based on seven health indicators for more than 12,000 individuals who lived over the past six millennia. This study reported a long-term decline in skeletal health among Native Americans in the pre-Columbian era and also considerable variability across 65 localities that included descendents from Europe and Africa. A finding that skeletal measures were sensitive to ecological conditions motivates our international team to prepare this application for collecting and analyzing similar but more extensive evidence for other parts of the globe.

The immediate research project, focused on Europe, has five specific aims. First, we plan to survey skeletons for measures of age, sex, and health status and to document related grave goods that indicate socio-economic status. Second, use metrics to determine sex and the metrics plus tooth cementum annulations to estimate age at death. Third, we use biochemical techniques to assess major components of the diet and to determine dates when people lived at each locality. Fourth, we are gathering evidence from archaeology, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), historical documents, and climate history sources to summarize the environments in which people lived. Fifth, we will use this package of information to describe and to explore determinants of skeletal health.




This project is funded by the National Science Foundation Site designed by BlueLine