2 Health and Wellness in Antiquity through the Middle Ages and measles) that had previously caused little trouble to emerge and thrive. Furthermore, archaeological evidence indicates that as humans started to live in permanent settlements and rely on agriculture and domesticated animals for food, their diets became less varied and focused on a limited number of staple crops, leading to malnutri- tion from not getting appropriate nutrients. The changed diets would only further enable the spread of diseases due to weakened immuni- ties. Clearly, the move to civilization brought a trade-off—on the one hand it may have allowed for increased security, but on the other, it led to an increase in disease. In this context, the need for effective means of treating disease became even more crucial once humans started to congregate in cities. Faced with these conditions, humans in the earliest civilizations began to develop theories about health and disease and to recog- nize different professionals in society who were deemed proficient in the craft of healing. This book is about the early medical beliefs and practices in civilizations from around the world from their earliest ori- gins in antiquity until roughly 1500 c.e. We will focus on the medi- cal traditions in seven different premodern societies: Mesopotamia (ca. 3000–500 b.c.e.), Egypt (ca. 3000–300 b.c.e.), Greece and Rome (ca. 1200 b.c.e.–500 c.e.), India (ca. 2000 b.c.e.–1400 c.e.), China (ca. 2000 b.c.e.–1400 c.e.), the Islamic World (ca. seventh century–1400 c.e.), and the European Middle Ages (ca. 500–1450 c.e.). The broad geographic scope will allow us to recognize the distinct beliefs and practices and how they developed in relation to the cultural beliefs of each individ- ual civilization. At the same time, however, when viewed together they display the commonality of approaches human societies have taken toward a shared interest in preserving health and curing disease. Some of the explanations for disease, theories about the body, meth- ods of treatment, and kinds of practitioners we will consider in this book may bear little relation to the medical beliefs and practices with which we ourselves are familiar in the twenty-first century. Indeed, one might feel tempted by the strangeness of some of the medical sys- tems to dismiss them as superstitious, irrational, and even dangerous. Or, we might choose to recognize only those beliefs and practices that appear to suggest the origins of our own modern, scientific medical ideas. In following either of those temptations, however, we would fail to recognize the complexities of medical decisions faced by our predecessors in the earliest human civilizations and the innovative means by which they sought to address them. Furthermore, although some of the medical traditions examined in this book have fallen into disuse, others (the Indian and Chinese medical traditions) are still
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