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The Place of Epidemics in the History of Human Societies

The Place of Epidemics in the History of Human Societies

Lecture by Olivier Dutour

Virtual event hosted by the Cultural Heritage Event Series on May 13, 2020

Abstract: Human societies are gradually becoming aware of the fragility of their systems, built over the centuries since Neolithic times, in front of new epidemic risks. In this period of epidemiological uncertainty, by being unable to predict the evolution of health risks in the near future, it makes sense to look to the data of the past. Archaeological and historical sciences can indeed provide new insights into the of emergence phenomena of epidemic risks over time through new molecular approaches of ancient pathogens.

This presentation will be supported by some examples of pathogens responsible for epidemics or health risks in the past, whose molecular identification has been carried out on the basis of archaeological data and which can help to understand the global history of the relationships between infectious pathogens responsible for epidemics and human societies

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Olivier Dutour, MD, PhD, Professor at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris Sciences Lettres University, Paris and Researcher at Research Unit PACEA, CNRS-University of Bordeaux-French Ministry of Culture. Olivier Dutour develops his research in biological anthropology, paleopathology and paleo-epidemiology, mainly focused on the history and archaeology of diseases and more particularly on the question of human infections in ancient societies. His multidisciplinary approach touches on epidemiological anthropology, health ecology, and the history of medicine and disease. He works on the history of pathogens such as plague, tuberculosis, leprosy, syphilis, typhus, smallpox.

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Top Image: 15th century painting of St Sebastian pleading for the life of a gravedigger afflicted with plague during the 7th-century Plague of Justinian.

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