Session: #268

Theme & Session Format

Archaeological theory and methods beyond paradigms
Session format:
Regular session

Title & Content

Disability and Care in Medieval Times: a Bioarchaeological Perspective into Health-related Practices
During mediaeval times a large proportion of the population of Europe lived with chronic disease and disability. This resulted from a combination of variables: the impacts of deepening social and economic inequality; widespread political instability, often with associated violence at local, regional and state levels; increasing population density leading to declining public health; and, perhaps the largest single factor, the advent of frequent and deadly pandemics - starting with the so-called ‘plague of Justinian’, which spread throughout the Roman Empire between the V and VII centuries AD and was responsible for millions of deaths. This session aims to stimulate debate on perceptions of health and disease and on related practices of healthcare provision within European medieval society. It seeks to bring together people from various areas of archaeology and anthropology to explore ways in which evidence from material culture and human remains (considered either within discrete disciplinary parameters or within an integrated bioarchaeological framework), possibly in conjunction with contemporary documentary evidence, can clarify both the figure of the diseased individual and the community understanding of, and responses to, health and disease in the past. The post-classic, mediaeval era is particularly apposite for examination, as this period saw the formation of various important schools of medicine which helped to shape medical philosophies and medical treatment in Europe. We call for papers (and in particular case studies) on the bioarchaeology of care, with a focus on medieval times, but will consider case studies from other chronological horizons. Theoretical presentations aimed at encouraging constructive and creative discussion among researchers working on questions of past disability and care are also welcome.
Disability, Disease, Care, bioarchaeology, Post-classical times
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Main organiser:
Ileana Micarelli (Italy) 1
Mary Anne Tafuri (Italy) 1
Lorna Tilley (Australia) 2
1. Sapienza Università di Roma
2. Australian National University, Canberra