European Module

This project creates three large databases, which will allow researchers to reinterpret the history of human health in Europe from the late Paleolithic era to the early twentieth century. During this period, human health and welfare were transformed enormously by the transition from foraging to farming; the rise of cities and complex forms of social and political organization; European colonization; and industrialization. With a trans-Atlantic network of collaborators, we will undertake large-scale comparative studies of the causes and health consequences of these and other dramatic changes in arrangements for work, living, and human interaction.

The Backbone of Europe: Health, Diet, Work and Violence over Two Millennia

Edited by: Richard H. Steckel, Ohio State University, Clark Spencer Larsen, Ohio State University, Charlotte A. Roberts, University of Durham, Joerg Baten, Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen, Germany

  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Online publication date: October 2018
  • Print publication year: 2018
  • Online ISBN: 9781108379830
Book description:
Using human skeletal remains, this volume traces health, workload and violence in the European population over the past 2,000 years. Health was surprisingly good for people who lived during the early Medieval Period. The Plague of Justinian of the sixth century was ultimately beneficial for health because the smaller population had relatively more resources that contributed to better living conditions. Increasing population density and inequality in the following centuries imposed an unhealthy diet - poor in protein - on the European population. With the onset of the Little Ice Age in the late Middle Ages, a further health decline ensued, which was not reversed until the nineteenth century. While some aspects of health declined, other attributes improved. During the early modern period, interpersonal violence (outside of warfare) declined possibly because stronger states and institutions were able to enforce compromise and cooperation. European health over the past two millennia was hence multifaceted in nature.
Skeleton Photos: Courtesy Donald J. Ortner
European Module Data File: Excel Format