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Parasites in Past Civilizations and Their Impact upon Health


  • Date Published: April 2023
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107000773

£ 59.99

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About the Authors
  • Parasites have been infecting humans throughout our evolution. When complex societies developed, the greater population density provided new opportunities for parasites to spread. In this interdisciplinary volume, the author brings his expertise in medicine, archaeology and history to explore the contribution of parasites in causing flourishing past civilizations to falter and decline. By using cutting edge methods, Mitchell presents the evidence for parasites that infected the peoples of key ancient civilizations across the world in order to understand their impact upon those populations. This new understanding of the archaeological and historical evidence for intestinal worms, ectoparasites, and protozoa shows how different cultures were burdened by contrasting types of diseases depending upon their geographical location, endemic insects, food preferences and cultural beliefs.

    • This is the first single author book for over 60 years to investigate the consequences of ancient parasites upon past societies
    • Provides a solid historical understanding of how the nature of past cultures and civilizations affects human risk of disease
    • Employs the clinical tool of disability adjusted life years to compare the health impacts of disease upon populations, and then quantifies and ranks the burden from parasites affecting past societie
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'This volume … challenges us to think about these civilizations without macroparasites - what would they be like day-to-day? How would their histories be different? Thinking in this way, it becomes easy to see the tremendous social and biological impacts that macroparasites had, and continue to have, on humans of the past and present.' Sophie K. Joseph, The Quarterly Review of Biology

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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2023
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107000773
    • length: 350 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 154 x 14 mm
    • weight: 0.42kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. Near Eastern civilizations
    3. Ancient Egypt and Nubia
    4. The prehistoric peoples of Europe
    5. The Roman world
    6. Medieval Europe
    7. East Asian civilizations
    8. North American indigenous peoples
    9. South and Central American civilizations
    10. Parasites, migrations and epidemics
    11. Conclusion

  • Author

    Piers D. Mitchell, University of Cambridge
    Piers Mitchell is trained in medicine, archaeology and medical history, and leads the Ancient Parasites Laboratory at the University of Cambridge, UK. Piers has been president of the British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology, and also president of the Paleopathology Association, the worldwide organisation for the study of ancient diseases.


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