PMID: 15153895May 22, 2004

Paleodermatoses: lessons learned from mummies

Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology
Eve Judith Lowenstein


Mummies, the preserved remains of living beings from former times, bear witness across millennia to the maladies plaguing humankind. Disease, older than humanity, is better understood when examined in the context of history. Paleopathology, literally meaning "ancient suffering", is the study of disease through evaluation of ancient remains. This area of increasing medical interest offers insights into the management of public health issues and disease epidemiology. This article provides an introduction and overview to paleodermatology, the branch of dermatology concerned with the evaluation of diseases associated with the integument by examination of ancient human remains. Mummy sources, how they were made and used throughout history, and the multidisciplinary approach used to study skin diseases found in mummies is briefly described. Despite pervasive pseudopathology, a remarkable array of diseases are well substantiated in the paleorecord, including infectious, heritable, nutritional, hormonal, acquired, iatrogenic, and neoplastic disorders. Legitimate ethical concerns have been raised in the use of human remains for any purpose, with the lack of informed consent eliciting accusations of exploitation. While these studies are ...Continue Reading


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Related Concepts

Iatrogenic Disease
Malignant Neoplasms
Dermatologic Disorders
Skin Diseases, Genetic
Skin Diseases, Infectious
History, Ancient

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