Paleopathology: Vestiges of Pathological Conditions in Fossil Human Bone with Their Wealth of Information for the Understanding of Primeval Life

  • Michael Schultz
  • Tyede H. Schmidt-Schultz
Living reference work entry


The methods and techniques of paleopathology are briefly described. Up to now, paleopathology has not really played a role in the field of paleoanthropology, although this relatively new science can contribute valuable facts to the reconstruction of the life of fossil humans and their antecessors. Examining the vestiges of pathological processes, the paleopathologist can reconstruct, within certain limits, the diseases early man suffered from (e.g., inflammatory and tumorous diseases) and even the hard living conditions, particularly the physical strain of everyday life. We might be able to gain substantial information about the musculoskeletal system, involved, for instance, in locomotion and work as well as some clues about possible social behavior and care (e.g., of an injured or disabled member of the social group). Not only the vestiges of pathological processes provide indications of how early man endured his hostile environment but also how the outcome of physical strain of everyday life can partially be reconstructed from the results of the study of the functional morphology. Therefore, selected results of a paleopathological analysis illustrating future prospects are discussed.


Paranasal Sinus Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis Myositis Ossificans Physical Strain Fossil Bone 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnatomyUniversity Medical School GöttingenGöttingenGermany
  2. 2.Department of BiochemistryUniversity Medical School GöttingenGöttingenGermany

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