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April 15, 1968

Diseases in Antiquity: A Survey of the Diseases, Injuries and Surgery of Early Populations

JAMA. 1968;204(3):276. doi:10.1001/jama.1968.03140160086042

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In their introduction, the editors mention two deterrents to the progress of paleopathology, viz the poverty of many collections of recent osseous lesions and the scattered distribution of specimens. They state correctly that "the time has come for some form of paleopathological stock-taking and pooling of recently collected data."

For this purpose they have assembled 57 papers, widely diversified as to geographical, temporal, and substantive scope. Included among them are a dozen essays reprinted from the writings of Moodie, Ruffer, Ackerknecht, Schultz, and others. The text has been divided into seven sections: introductory studies, parasitology, geographic studies, individual somatic diseases, regional and systemic somatic diseases, trauma and surgery, and mental abnormality.

One of the best essays is the opening paper, "Pseudopathology," by Dr. Calvin Wells. This salutary contribution discusses the errors that may arise in interpreting paleopathologic specimens, especially the failure to recognize such postmortem changes as warping, erosion,