International Open Workshop: “Socio-Environmental Dynamics over the Last 15,000 Years: The Creation of Landscapes VI”. Session 14 “Osteobiography of suffering and disease”

International Open Workshop: “Socio-Environmental Dynamics over the Last 15,000 Years: The Creation of Landscapes VI” at Kiel University, 11-16 March 2019

Call for papers session 14: “The Osteobiography of suffering and disease: interdisciplinary approaches to gain insights into past health conditions”

Conveners: K. Fuchs, B. Krause-Kyora, A. Nebel, A. Immel, C. Rinne, J. Gresky

Health and suffering concerns all of us. In prehistoric and historic contexts, the decayed body, predominantly
bones, bears the imprints of conditions that might have caused pain, dysfunction, distress, or even death to the
afflicted person. Palaeopathological information in the form of osteobiographies gained from individual skeletal
remains or collections thus builds the foundation for investigations on health and disease in past populations.
Traditionally, physical anthropologists substantially contributed to the field of palaeopathology. In recent
decades, the development of new methods, such as ancient DNA analysis, proteomics, lipidomics, and stable
isotope research, has opened up new possibilities to reconstruct past living conditions and the medical life history
of those who died centuries or millennia ago.
Diseases can affect people not only physically, but also emotionally and on a population level, for instance
through epidemics, as well as socially, economically, and politically. Changes in health status can therefore reflect
or even trigger transformations in the sensitive network of socio-environmental relationships.
This session will bring together researchers with various backgrounds to highlight the potential of the osteobiography
concept with a special focus on human suffering and disease. In addition, we aim at creating new
transdisciplinary avenues for the analysis of human remains. We welcome contributions that integrate and
synthesise data from different scientific fields, e.g., osteological, genetic, isotopic, ecological, climatic, or archaeological
proxies. This includes case studies with clinical and therapeutic reference.
We also invite the presentation of papers that challenge common assumptions, concepts, and deterministic
thinking, which influence the detection and interpretation of disease and suffering in ancient populations. For
instance, did Neolithic lifeways always cause an increase in poor health? To what extent did infectious diseases
contribute to population collapses or decreases in population density? Is the infant mortality rate really a robust
indicator of population health?

Paper submission deadline is 15 November 2019 (via