The Paleopathology of South American Mummies
Paleopathology — the study of ancient diseases — provides us with a better understanding of how our ancestors lived and what caused them to die. Some of the best paleopathological investigations have resulted from the discovery of mummified remains associated with pre-Columbian Andean cultures in southern Peru and northern Chile. The vast majority of these naturally dried bodies are complete, and in many cases the internal organs are intact.
Dr. Peter Gerszten has been fascinated with paleopathology from an early age, often accompanying his father Dr. Enrique Gerszten (a pioneer in the field) to South America to conduct field work. His interest in skulls, including deformation and trephination, ultimately led him to pursue the field of neurosurgery. Dr. Gerszten first came to Pittsburgh complete a residency in Neurological Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where he now serves as the Peter E. Sheptak Professor of Neurological Surgery.
This talk will introduce the field of paleopathology, the methods employed to study the diseases of ancient remains, and the medical findings of those who lived thousands of years ago in South America.