World Archaeology The Archaeology of Medicine and Healthcare

Volume 50, Issue 3

World Archaeology

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 into these issues have been limited, restricted largely to studies of human palaeopathology or examinations of medical implements.

Lack of archaeological engagement with the history of medicine is partly because modern, particularly pharmaceutical, concepts of medicine and care are often viewed as discrete practices that take place within particular settings. Yet anthropological and historical research makes clear that in many cultures, throughout time and space, medicine and care-giving weave through all aspects of daily life and daily practice.  They are often linked directly with religious beliefs and practices, notions of religiously ordained duty or status, and entwined with culturally specific attitudes towards material objects, food, body and constitution. 

This volume seeks to fill the knowledge gap and invites contributions that examine issues such as forms of protection against illness, healing and related medico-ritual frameworks. What are the material cultures of medicine and care-giving beyond surgical tools? To what degree did archaeologically attested shifts in food culture reflect and reinforce changing perceptions of health and well-being in both human and non-human spheres?  How does archaeology contribute to the identification of specific sets of materia medica, be they animal, plant or soil/mineral based and how did their production and use relate to broader, and better understood archaeologies of land-use, food production and diet.  What role did beads and pendants play in the protection and healing in prehistoric communities and can residue analysis on ceramics and other objects from medieval hospitals and sites of healing shed light on the composition of medical preparations? Studies might explore evidence for medical interventions, in the form of comprehensive analyses (as opposed to discrete examples) of veterinary and human medicine. Papers might equally explore the history, form and function of care-giving centres and institutions, ranging from shrines and sanctuaries, to monastic centres and formal hospitals.

Through the collected papers, this volume will demonstrate how detailed insights into cultural ideology and worldview can be obtained from studies of medicine and care.

Submission Deadline

Submit your paper online via the journal's ScholarOne™ website: by 1st October 2017.

Editorial information