One of the objectives of paleopathology is to clarify the role of disease in the evolution of human groups. The recovery of DNA and immunoglobulins from archeological human skeletal tissue offers a method for enhancing and expanding our knowledge about the presence and significance of disease in past human populations. DNA also might reveal the presence of genetic disease. Immunoglobulins recovered from archeological bone indicate some of the diseases to which an individual was exposed during life. This information also provides supporting evidence for anatomical observations of skeletal disease. This is illustrated by the identification of treponemal antibody in an archeological skeleton that has gross lesions suggestive of treponematosis. Similar biochemical methods could be applied to other research problems to clarify the presence of various syndromes of the inflammatory erosive arthropathies, such as rheumatoid arthritis, in New World archeological populations. Some of these syndromes are associated with DNA sequences and specific proteins that are recoverable from archeological skeletal tissue.
Ortner, Donald J.; Tuross, Noreen; and Stix, Agnes I.
"New Approaches to the Study of Disease in Archeological New World Populations,"
3, Article 4.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/humbiol/vol64/iss3/4