George J. Armelagos

George J. Armelagos
Emory University | EU · Department of Anthropology

University of Colorado, Ph.D.

About

124
Publications
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6,994
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January 1993 - present
Emory University
Position
  • Goodrich C. White Professor of Anthropology

Publications

Publications (124)
Chapter
The epidemiologic transition theory makes sense of how sociodemographic changes have altered the pathogens that afflict our species. We are now coming to understand that the same developments that have transformed the pathogen landscape have also affected the makeup of the commensal microorganisms that inhabit our bodies. In this article, we review...
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A coevolutionary paradigm using a biocultural perspective can help to unravel the complex interactions that led to the contemporary pattern of eating. Evolutionary history helps to understand the adaptation of diet and its nutritional implications. Anatomical and behavioral changes linked to changing dietary patterns in the Paleolithic resulted in...
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The modern era of disease emergence and reemergence is attributed to issues ranging from the deterioration of the environment, which brings humans in contact with pathogens that jump species barriers, to globalization, which is expanding the reach of pathogens beyond their former geographic boundaries. The transition from foraging to agriculture ab...
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The world is rife with potential pathogens. Of those that infect humans, it is estimated that roughly 20 % are of nonhuman primate origin. The same ease characterizes pathogen transmission in the other direction, from humans to nonhuman primates. This latter problem has increasingly serious ramifications for conservation efforts, as growing numbers...
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It has been known for decades that wild baboons are naturally infected with Treponema pallidum, the bacterium that causes the diseases syphilis (subsp. pallidum), yaws (subsp. pertenue), and bejel (subsp. endemicum) in humans. Recently, a form of T. pallidum infection associated with severe genital lesions has been described in wild baboons at Lake...
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Pathological conditions in human skeletal remains provide a wealth of information about archaeological populations, but many are limited in their interpretive significance by their nonspecific etiologies. This study analyzes three common pathological conditions known to manifest in infancy and childhood in the skeletal population from Machu Picchu,...
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We would like to thank Drs. Cole and Waldron for their thoughtful reading of our recent article on evidence for pre-Columbian Old World treponemal disease (Harper et al.,2011). This is a very controversial subject, and we are not surprised that other investigators have critiques of our survey. We welcome their comments, and look forward to hearing...
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This article discusses the presentation of scientific findings by documentary, without the process of peer review. We use, as an example, PBS's "The Syphilis Enigma," in which researchers presented novel evidence concerning the origin of syphilis that had never been reviewed by other scientists. These "findings" then entered the world of peer-revie...
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IntroductionCulture, Ecology and the Epidemiology of Infectious DiseaseInfectious Disease in History: Epidemics and Epidemiological TransitionsModes of Infectious Disease Transmission Reflect Social RealitiesThe HIV/AIDS Pandemic in Africa Illustrates Complex Biological, Political and Cultural InteractionsReferences
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The population explosion that followed the Neolithic revolution was initially explained by improved health experiences for agriculturalists. However, empirical studies of societies shifting subsistence from foraging to primary food production have found evidence for deteriorating health from an increase in infectious and dental disease and a rise i...
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Schistosomiasis has been deemed "the most important water-based disease from a global public-health perspective" in modern populations. To better understand the burden of schistosomiasis in ancient populations, we conducted immunologic examinations of desiccated tissue samples from two ancient Nubian populations, Wadi Halfa (N = 46) and Kulubnarti...
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IntroductionOrigins of the Biocultural ApproachThe Biocultural Approach within Biological Anthropology and BioarchaeologyThe Emergence and Development of a Bioculturally-Oriented BioarchaeologyThe Current State of Bioculturally-Oriented Bioarchaeological ResearchConclusion AcknowledgmentsNotesReferences
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Franz Boas defined anthropology over a century ago as a four-field discipline in danger of fragmentation. It has endured with stresses and strains by maintaining many integrative ties among the sub-disciplines. Vibrant links indicate that a healthy endeavor remains among anthropologists dedicated to an interdisciplinary approach. Little and Kennedy...
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For nearly 500 years, scholars have argued about the origin and antiquity of syphilis. Did Columbus bring the disease from the New World to the Old World? Or did syphilis exist in the Old World before 1493? Here, we evaluate all 54 published reports of pre-Columbian, Old World treponemal disease using a standardized, systematic approach. The certai...
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Histological evidence of tetracycline use has been reported in an ancient X-Group population (350-550 CE) from Sudanese Nubia (Bassett et al., 1980). When bone samples were examined by fluorescent microscopy under UV light at 490 A yellow-green fluorophore deposition bands, similar to those produced by tetracycline, were observed, suggesting signif...
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More than 72 million Americans, over a third of the population, are obese. In the past three decades, the rates of obesity in adults have doubled, and rates in children have tripled. Obesity rates have markedly increased among all segments of society, including those defined by age, sex, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, education level, and g...
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The epidemiological transition model describes the changing relationship between humans and their diseases. The first transition occurred with the shift to agriculture about 10,000 YBP, resulting in a pattern of infectious and nutritional diseases still evident today. In the last two centuries, some populations have undergone a second transition, c...
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The work of Eugen Strouhal has contributed greatly to the understanding of neoplasms in the archaeological record. His detailed work inspired re-evaluation of a set of remains from a 1960s excavation in Egypt and Nubia. Evidence of metastatic carcinoma is used to highlight the process of differential diagnosis and the changing epidemiology of cance...
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The hygiene hypothesis [1, 2] argues that in developed nations the lack of childhood exposure to infectious pathogens, parasites, and symbiotic microorganisms increases susceptibility to allergy and other chronic diseases in adulthood. A modified hygiene hypothesis, (‘the old friends hypothesis’ proposed by G. A. Rook [3]) excludes childhood diseas...
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The Barker hypothesis asserts that stressful events early in the life history of an individual have negative health consequences later in adulthood. The hypothesis initially focused on prenatal stressors as indicated by birth weight and related outcomes. This initial concern with the fetal phase of development led to its description as the “fetal p...
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The Inca Empire (AD 1438–1532) made common practice of relocating individuals, households and entire communities throughout their expansive realm for different reasons depending on subjects' assigned social class. Reconstructing patterns of immigration at Inca-period sites could therefore permit some estimation of the social class(es) among their c...
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Despite the completion of the Treponema pallidum genome project, only minor genetic differences have been found between the subspecies that cause venereal syphilis (ssp. pallidum) and the nonvenereal diseases yaws (ssp. pertenue) and bejel (ssp. endemicum). In this paper, we describe sequence variation in the arp gene which allows straightforward d...
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Primary sexual characteristics are usually absent in the archeological record. The recovered secondary sex markers in bone morphology or mortuary context reflect the lifelong integrated biocultural experience of the individual man or woman. Internal patterns of variability within and between sexes can be recognized but are too frequently masked by...
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Since the first recorded epidemic of syphilis in 1495, controversy has surrounded the origins of the bacterium Treponema pallidum subsp. pallidum and its relationship to the pathogens responsible for the other treponemal diseases: yaws, endemic syphilis, and pinta. Some researchers have argued that the syphilis-causing bacterium, or its progenitor,...
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Jackson (2005) raised a number of issues in her response to Armelagos' commentary on the Slavery Hypertension Hypothesis. Armelagos focused on the lack of evidence for a genetic bottleneck that predisposes the descendents of the survivors of the Middle Passage and enslavement to hypertension. He was critical of the acceptance of the Hypothesis with...
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The origin and rise of social inequalities that are a feature of the post-Neolithic society play a major role in the pattern of disease in prehistoric and contemporary populations. We use the concept of epidemiological transition to understand changing ecological relationships between humans, pathogens and other disease insults. With the Paleolithi...
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Agricultural expansion was such a momentous event that cultural or genetic evidence of its impact should be apparent. Abundant evidence indicates that agriculture was introduced into Europe at least 9,000 years ago. The primary issue remains whether agriculture spread by contact or by farmers moving into Europe. If agriculture was brought by farmer...
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The causes and consequences of the Neolithic revolution represent a fundamental problem for anthropological inquiry. Traditional archeological evidence, ethnobotanical remains, artifacts, and settlement patterns have been used to infer the transition from foraging to primary food production. Recent advances in genomics (the study of the sequence, s...
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The evolutionist and creationist debate about human origins has contested the content of textbooks, what is taught in classrooms, and what is discussed on the Internet. The controversy has spawned public-interest groups that continue to frame the debate. The National Center for Science Education monitors attempts to incorporate creationism into the...
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For the first half of the 20th century, biological anthropology stagnated in a state in which racial typology was its major theoretical and methodological focus. In 1951, Sherwood Wash burn proposed the "new physical anthropology" that would move biological anthropology beyond description. Washburn repositioned it into a science that focused on pro...
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It has become increasingly popular to theorize and assert significant genetic differences between arbitrary regional, ethnic, and racial groupings of humans. Beginning with Livingstone, Brace, and Newman is the early 1960s, biological anthropologists have shown that variation in human traits is non-concordant along racial lines, as they are product...
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The concept of epidemiological transition is expanded to describe the evolution of disease in human populations. A.R. Omran observed that in modern nations pandemics of infections are gradually displaced by degenerative and “man‐made diseases.” In retrospect, Omran's description is not the first example of an epidemiological transition. The Neolith...
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We use an expanded framework of multiple epidemiologic transitions to re-view the issues of re/emerging infection. The first epidemiologic transition was associated with a rise in infectious diseases that accompanied the Neo-lithic Revolution. The second epidemiologic transition involved the shift from infectious to chronic disease mortality associ...
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Stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes were analysed on bone collagen of 43 Sudanese Nubians from the X-Group period to test dietary hypotheses for the high frequency of osteopenia in this population. Stable carbon isotope ratios indicate that both normal and osteopenic individuals consumed the same mixed diet of C3 and C4 sources, which are assumed t...
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For millions of years, humans and their ancestors suffered from diseases -- both the kind caused by infectious pathogens (e.g., bacteria, viruses, parasites) and the kind caused by our own bodies as they age and degenerate. Over this long period, humans constantly created new ways of living and eating, and actual physical or genetic changes evolved...
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Functional analysis of the true pelvis (defined as that portion lying below and including the pelvic brim) was undertaken on a sample of 36 females from the Medieval site of Kulubnarti in Sudanese Nubia. Standard obstetric measurements were taken and compared to four additional prehistoric skeletal samples and to modern American standards for the s...
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Medical anthropology has developed distinct and separate biological and cultural approaches to the study of health and disease in human populations. Within cultural anthropology a major focus has been the ethnomedical perspective that analyzes the process of defining disease and describing the social response to disease. In biological anthropology,...
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The increase in the Neolithic human population following the development of agriculture has been assumed to result from improvements in health and nutrition. Recent research demonstrates that this assumption is incorrect. With the development of sedentism and the intensification of agriculture, there is an increase in infectious disease and nutriti...
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The evolution of infectious disease can be understood from an ecological model that incorporates information from anthropology, epidemiology, and biomedicine. This model considers variables such as the pathogen, the host population, and the environment. In this model, the role that culture as well as other environmental variables plays in the trans...
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Infants and children are nearly universally found to be among the most vulnerable subgroups of a population. Their health can be a sensitive indicator of the health of the population as a whole. Furthermore, repeated bouts of illness during infancy and childhood, periods of rapid development, can have lasting functional effects on the individual an...
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Macchiarelli & Bondioli (1984, 1986) argue that post-Pleistocene cranio-facial reduction cannot be explained by biomechanical factors related to change in the diet (Carlson, 1974;Carlson & Van Gerven, 1977) or to facial reduction related to the selective advantages of smaller, morphologically simpler teeth (Greene, 1967;Van Gerven, Armelagos & Rohr...
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A variety of soil-dwelling micro-organisms play a role in the decomposition of interred human skeletal remains, leading to post-mortem alterations in biochemical composition and microstructural appearance of bone. Piepenbrink (1986) has suggested that a post-mortem microbial invasion may be responsible for the fluorescence found in Sudanese Nubian...
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Sattenspiel and Harpending (1983, American Antiquity 48(3): 489–498) have stated that the life expectancy at birth (e) which paleodemographers calculate from skeletal population data is actually the mean age at death (ād) of the population. Yet, only when a population is neither growing or declining (i.e., is stationary) are these two statistics eq...
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The aim of this article is to present evidence of hyperostosis frontalis interna in a 40-year-old female recovered from a Meroitic cemetery (ca. 300 A.D.) in Sudanese Nubia. A review of the literature concerning the Morgagni-Stewart-Morel (MSM) syndrome suggests that the changes in the skull fragment are consistent with this diagnosis. This case is...
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Stress, a concept addressing the consequences of disruptive events on individuals and populations, can be a useful integrative idea. The stress process has much in common with its sister concept of adaptation. However, where adaptation focuses on " adaptive " or positive consequences, stress redresses an imbalance by focusing on the costs and limit...
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In a recent articleBocquet-Appel & Masset (1985) renew their criticism of paleodemography and criticizeVan Gerven & Armelagos' (1983) defense of paleodemographic methods. In the present analysis we respond toBocquet-Appel andMasset's criticisms ofVan Gerven andArmelagos and then address the question of whether paleodemographic methods are capable o...
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Previous studies in animal populations have shown that stunted neural and thymolymphaticgrowth early in development may result in permanently impaired neural and immune function, decreased body growth, vertebral wedging, and decreased life-span. In the human adult, small vertebral neural canal (VNC) diameters may reflect early stunted neural and im...
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Frequencies and morphological and chronological distributions of enamel hypoplasias are presented by tooth type (permanent I1 to M2s), based on a sample of 30 prehistoric Amerindians with complete and unworn dentitions. There is nearly a tenfold variation in frequency of defects by tooth, ranging from 0.13 per mandibular second molar to 1.27 per ma...
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Microscopic analysis of bone is used to examine the physiological processes which underlie skeletal indicators of nutritional deficiency and poor health. Microradiographs were made from 185 adult human femora from archeological cemeteries in Sudancese Nubia. A variety of microstructural features—especially the density and morphology of osteons—prov...
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The month of onset, duration, and incidence of dental enamel hypoplasia and hypocalcification was determined in sub-adults from the Dickson Mounds (Illinois) skeletal series (A.D. 950–1300). The onset of enamel defects occurred predominantly during the intrauterine period, suggesting maternal stress. There are marked differences in survivorship and...
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The frequencies and chronology, based on a standard tooth development chart, of enamel hypoplasia derived from permanent upper central incisors and mandibular canines were compared for 42 prehistoric Amerindians. Between 0.5 and 4.5 years, when the crowns of both these teeth are developing, hypoplasias were 1.36 times more common on the incisors (5...
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The chronological distributions of enamel hypoplasias (indicators of nonspecific stress) are assessed for 111 individuals from two prehistoric populations from Dickson Mounds, Lewiston, Illinois. The earlier population (circa A.D. 950–1150) involves a transition from an indigenous gathering-hunting tradition to increasing adoption of Mississippian...
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Bocquet-Appel & Masset (1982) have recently proposed that paleodemography be abandoned in the light of two seemingly insurmountable deficiencies. First, they contend that the age structures of skeletal samples reflects nothing more than the age structures of their reference populations, that is to say, the samples by whose criteria they were aged....
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Enamel hypoplasias, deficiencies of enamel thickness resulting from systemic growth disturbances, were used as indicators of previous growth disruptions and stress in a sample of 111 adults from the Dickson Mound archaeological population, Lewiston, Illinois (A.D. 950-1300). The distance of hypoplasias from cemento-enamel junctions determines the a...
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Nubian bone recovered from an X-group cemetery (A.D. 350 to 550) exhibits a pattern of fluorescence identical to that of modern tetracycline-labeled bone. When it is viewed under ultraviolet light at 490 angstroms, fluorophors are visible as a characteristic yellow-green fluorescence on surfaces that were actively mineralizing at the time of exposu...
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Morphometric analysis of compact femoral tissue was applied to a prehistoric population from Sudanese Nubia. Microradiographs of thin sections from below the lesser trochanter were examined. A total of 74 adults (40 females, 34 males) from the X-Group population (A.D. 350–550) were used to determine the underlying processes of bone remodeling in sk...
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Although previous paleopathological studies have used disturbances in enamel formation as indicators of childhood stress, the full potential of this technique has not been realized. This paper presents a test case which demonstrates that the frequency of disturbed enamel formation (i.e., Wilson bands) is associated with other stress indicators (i.e...
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Abstract A model of analysis incorporating methodological improvements and epidemiological refinements has been employed to investigate the etiology of porotic hyperostosis and periosteal reactions in infants and children from the Libben Site, a Late Woodland ossuary and occupation site from Ottawa County, Ohio. Results of the age-specific intrapop...