Our Ailing Ancestors: Uncovering Misconceptions in Paleopathology

How do archaeologists know what they do about life thousands of years ago? One way is by studying the diseases our ancestors had. This has much to teach us about not only people’s state of health, but also their diet and lifestyle. The study of paleopathology also has much to contribute to our understanding of diseases that are common today, and has corrected many modern misconceptions about ancient peoples, such as the belief that their lives were much shorter than ours. Dr. Kate Pechenkina studies how changes through time in human behavior transform patterns of disease distribution and severity and affect community health in different populations. In this context, technological innovations affecting diet are of particular importance – for example, agricultural societies tend to exhibit different diseases than their hunter-gather counterparts. Join Dr. Pechenkina and host Dr. Joe Schuldenrein as they discuss the study of paleopathology, what it brings to the table in an archaeological discussion, and what it has to contribute to our knowledge of modern maladies.

KaterinaDr. Ekaterina “Kate” Pechenkina was born in Tashkent, Uzbekestan, then the Soviet Union, in 1972. She graduated from Moscow State University with an MS in Biology and Anthropology in 1994. That same year, she came to the US to begin graduate studies at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Kate began fieldwork in Peru in 1997, and then switched to China in 1998. She received her PhD in 2002 from UM and joined Queens College-CUNY in 2003. She has recently received a job offer from ANU and will be moving to Australia in two weeks. Kate has 3 kids, ages 18, 12, and 11 months.

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