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JAMA Revisited
January 22, 2019

Paleopathologic Studies

JAMA. 2019;321(3):312. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.15165

Originally Published January 18, 1919 | JAMA. 1919;72(3):195.

Paleopathology, as we have pointed out,1 is a new word for a very old subject, which is only now beginning to attract the attention it deserves. All physicians interested in the scientific side of medicine, especially those who have professional and educational interests at heart, should be familiar with its recent progress. The term was originally proposed, we believe, by Ruffer in 1914, when, in the course of researches on ancient Egyptian mummies, he realized that the study of pathologic changes occurring in past ages ought to have a definite place of its own in medical science. Mummies have revealed the fact that pathology in its present form is as old as human history, and that bones particularly, but also arteries and other tissues, when preserved as the mummies have been, demonstrate that humanity has not changed in its pathologic reactions for fifty centuries at least. It is interesting to find arteriosclerosis affecting the Egyptians just as it does men of our time. It is illuminating to realize that in spite of the fact that the ancient Egyptians led lives of ease, had no tobacco, and did not overindulge in meat eating, their arteries degenerated practically in the same way as our own.