Edited Volume on GHHP European Module

For more than 20 years, the Global History of Health Project (GHHP) has collected osteological information from more than 15,000 skeletons across Europe in order to sketch out the development of major diseases and pathological conditions since the Early Middle Ages. Now an initial analysis of this vast database has been published as an edited volume under the title „The Backbone of Europe: Health, Diet, Work and Violence over Two Millennia“. It follows the earlier volume „The Backbone of History: Health and Nutrition in the Western Hemisphere“, published in 2002, which was based on the GHHP’s predecessor „The Western Hemisphere Project“.

Several members of the Society for Anthropology (Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, GfA) contributed to the GHHP, some of which are among the authors of the new publication. Gisela Grupe (with Rimantas Jankauskas) is co-author of a chapter on contextual dimensions of health and lifestyle, setting the cultural and historical stage and discussing complementary sources of information. Ursula Wittwer-Backofen and Felix Engel discuss the history of oral health based on frequencies of dental caries and antemortem tooth loss. Felix Engel (with Richard Steckel) is also co-author of a chapter on the influence of climate dynamics. Zsolt Bereczki and Maria Teschler-Nicola (with Antonia Marcsik, Nicholas J. Meinzer und Joerg Baten) use evidence from  linear enamel hypoplasias to assess growth disruption in children.

Further chapters deal with periosteal reactions, cranial porosities, stature, degenerative joint disease and trauma or discuss various methodological issues. Apart from a grand synthesis there is also an analysis of subadult health profiles and their bearing on age at death in adults. A central contribution of the GHHP is the compilation of a data collection codebook, representing a transatlantic consensus on standardised data compilation. This resource, which has already been adopted by other research projects, is also included in the „Backbone of Europe“.

Additional GfA members, who do not feature in the edited volume, also contributed to the GHHP database, among them George McGlynn and Kristin von Heyking.

Felix Engel

The Backbone of Europe: Health, Diet, Work and Violence over Two Millennia“ is edited by Richard H. Steckel (Ohio State University, USA), Clark Spencer Larsen (Ohio State University, USA), Charlotte A. Roberts (University of Durham, UK) and Joerg Baten (Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen, Germany). It appeared in October 2018 with Cambridge University Press.