1st Edition

The Archaeology of Medicine and Healthcare

Edited By Naomi Sykes, Julia Shaw Copyright 2022
    196 Pages
    by Routledge

    196 Pages
    by Routledge

    The maintenance of human health and the mechanisms by which this is achieved – through medicine, medical intervention and care-giving – are fundamentals of human societies. However, archaeological investigations of medicine and care have tended to examine the obvious and explicit manifestations of medical treatment as discrete practices that take place within specific settings, rather than as broader indicators of medical worldviews and health beliefs. This volume highlights the importance of medical worldviews as a means of understanding healthcare and medical practice in the past.

    The volume brings together ten chapters, with themes ranging from a bioarchaeology of Neanderthal healthcare, to Roman air quality, decontamination strategies at Australian quarantine centres, to local resistance to colonial medical structures in South America. Within their chapters the contributors argue for greater integration between archaeology and both the medical and environmental humanities, while the Introduction presents suggestions for future engagement with emerging discourse in community and public health, environmental and planetary health, genetic and epigenetic medicine, 'exposome' studies and ecological public health, microbiome studies and historical disability studies.

    The chapters in this book were originally published as a special issue of World Archaeology.

    Introduction – New directions in the archaeology of medicine: deep-time approaches to human-animal-environmental care

    Julia Shaw and Naomi Sykes

    1. Calculated or caring? Neanderthal healthcare in social context

    Penny Spikins, Andy Needham, Lorna Tilley and Gail Hitchens

    2. Identifying the connection between Roman conceptions of ‘Pure Air’ and physical and mental health in Pompeian gardens (c.150 BC–AD 79): a multi-sensory approach to ancient medicine

    Patricia Baker

    3. From mine to apothecary: an archaeo-biomedical approach to the study of the Greco-Roman lithotherapeutics industry

    Effie Photos-Jones

    4. Medical therapeutics and the place of healing in early medieval Culmen in Poland

    Magdalena Domicela Matczak and Wojciech Chudziak

    5. Health beliefs, healing practices and medico-ritual frameworks in the Ecuadorian Andes: the continuity of an ancient tradition

    Elizabeth Currie, John Schofield, Fernando Ortega Perez and Diego Quiroga

    6. Medicine in colonial Moquegua, Peru: plants, wine and Belén de Locumbilla

    Prudence M. Rice

    7. Enslavement and institutionalized care: the politics of health in nineteenth-century St Croix, Danish West Indies

    Meredith Reifschneider

    8. Contagious objects: artefacts of disease transmission and control at North Head Quarantine Station, Australia

    Peta Longhurst

    9. Vision and ocular health at a World War II internment camp

    Stacey Lynn Camp


    Naomi Sykes researches and teaches on human-animal-environment interactions over the past 10,000 years and their impact on the structure, ideology and impact of societies, past and present. She integrates archaeological evidence with data from biomolecular analyses and discourse in anthropology, cultural geography, (art) history and linguistics. She is author of Beastly Questions: Animal Answers to Archaeological Issues (2014).

    Julia Shaw researches and teaches on South Asian environmental and socio-religious history and diachronic interfaces between environmental archaeology, ecological public health, and global climate-change activism. Current projects include work on interactions between lowland irrigated agriculture and upland forest-based lifeways in India, and diachronic attitudes towards urban wildlife, 'pests' and pesticides in the UK. She is author of Buddhist Landscapes in Central India (Routledge, 2007) and is writing a book on religion, ecology and medico-environmental worldviews in early India. She co-leads UCL Institute of Archaeology’s Heritage and Archaeology of Health and Medicine (HAHM) initiative.