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April 1960

Archeology and Arthritis

Author Affiliations

St. Louis; Warren Air Force Base, Wyo.

Assistant physician, The Jewish Hospital of St. Louis, formerly special fellow in rhumatology, Mayo Clinic (Dr. Karsh). Dr. McCarthy's present address: Capt. J. D. McCarthy, U.S.A.F., Warren Air Force Base, Wyo.; formerly fellow in medicine, Mayo Clinic.

AMA Arch Intern Med. 1960;105(4):640-644. doi:10.1001/archinte.1960.00270160138017

There is a dead medical literature and there is a live one. The dead is not all ancient, and the live is not all modern.

—Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Contemporary growth in virtually every medical field depends greatly upon the uses that it makes of its past. Rheumatology is no exception. But it is vexing to learn that the past is scattered over thousands of years, hundreds of sources, and dozens of conflicting opinions. In spite of these difficulties, a periodic pause for perspective is always interesting and occasionally even helpful.

This collation will deal with the first documented instances of rheumatic disease in ancient times, as well as with the earliest pertinent medical observations of these phenomena. Fortunately, the hallmarks of the arthritides, the bones, have withstood time as no other body parts could have. They have been strewn by nature over the entire map of life to provide the