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by Archaeology Newsroom

When archaeology meets medicine. Paleopathology and the first conclusions from the study of anthropological material from the cemetery of the Historic era in the city of Chania

Two hundred years have passed since the first observations on the deterioration of animal bones from Paleontological finds were made. New remarks were later added to these, this time concerning isolated cases of human skeletal remnants. Today the science of Paleopathology studies entire population groups and tries to shed ample light on the health condition of earlier societies, through the team-work of American and English researchers,who are pioneers in the field. The information supplied by the study of bones is especially useful and equally important to that coming from the study of ceramics, metals and architectural remains. Teeth and bones are extremely resistable to various forms of deterioration and sometimes they serve as the only indication of the existence and activity of a person. The picture of health of earlier societies enables archaeologists to understand the effect of the environment and life conditions on man and also his efforts to face the adversities of nature. In the 1980s and 1990s a series of rescue excavations in the city of Chania brought to light a great number of graves dating from the historic years. The forty-two skeletons which served as our sample, come from Hellenistic burials. Most of the graves date from the first half of the third century BC as is proven by the offerings accompanying the deceased (pottery, coins, etc). This sample enable us to form a picture of the condition of health and the various diseases suffered by the population that is buried in the cemetery we have studied.