Urbanization and health in the transition between medieval and modern ages in Portugal: An assessment of indicators of morbidity and mortality of skeletal remains from different Portuguese cemeteries.

Project Title:
Urbanization and health in the transition between medieval and modern ages in Portugal: An assessment of indicators of morbidity and mortality of skeletal remains from different Portuguese cemeteries

Start and End of Project:
2014 to 2019

Chief Investigator:
Prof. Susana Garcia


Research Team:

Researcher Name Institutional Afiliation
Susana Garcia ISCSP/CAPP
Alexandra Amoroso ISCSP
José Rita ISCSP
Vera de Aldeia ISCSP
Sara Gaspar ISCSP
Marla Silva ISCSP
Rute Veiga ISCSP



Partners:

Country  Partner
Portugal Instituto Superior de Ciências Sociais e Políticas, Universidade de Lisboa
Portugal Museu Nacional de História Natural e da Ciência, Universidade de Lisboa
Portugal Centro de Arqueologia de Lisboa, Câmara Municipal de Lisboa


Consultants:

Name
Institutional Filiation
Ana Luísa Santos Departamento de Ciências da Vida, Universidade de Coimbra
Andrea Lessa Museu Nacional, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro
Hugo Cardoso Simon Fraser, Canada
António Marques Centro de Arqueologia de Lisboa, Câmara Municipal de Lisboa

 

Summary:

Urbanization in terms of human history is relatively recent and its impact on human health is still under investigation. A higher concentration of people sharing the same environment has the potential to increase the spreading of pathogens. But at the same time in towns care givers (e.g. physicians or health institutions) were present which could buffer the disease burden. The perils in rural or urban environments are different as the subsistence challenges are also different. In urban settings people could be more vulnerable to respiratory infections but in rural settings life could be more physically hazardous, increasing the risk of fractures. To live in a small town or in a big city can also be diverse in terms of health risks. Towns have the potential to represent either the better or the worse of the rural and the urban world.
The study of populations in transition is not new to Anthropology. For example, Cohen and Armelagos (1984) studied the cost on health of the transition to agriculture and Swedlund with also Armelagos in 1990 dedicated a book to disease in populations in transition. In Portugal in the transition between the medieval and post-medieval period a major event occurred, the Portuguese discoveries. With the discoveries new products were introduced in Portugal but also new pathogens with important impacts on health.
The main goal of this proposal is to assess health and disease patterns in different Portuguese communities from the transition between the Medieval and the Post-medieval period. The idea is to apply the same methods to large samples in order to gain a more comprehensive insight about health and disease in the past. The samples under study comprise, in a first moment, a large assemblage from São Martinho, Leiria (n=200) from the 13th to the 16th century and from Largo do Carmo, Lisbon (n=250) from the 15th to the 18th century, but other samples from other contexts are planned to be incorporated in the project. Until now these samples were partially study academically (e.g. Benisse, 2005; Gaspar, 2013; Veiga, 2013; Garcia, 2007) and some results were already published (Codinha, 2002; Garcia e Cardoso, 2009; Garcia 2005/2006; Garcia, 2012). The frequency and prevalence of non-specific stress indicators, non-specific infections, and specific infectious and non-infectious diseases will be recorded and compared between samples. Reconstruction and comparative analysis of demography profiles, skeletal growth patterns and adult stature will also be carried out.

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