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History

Prehistoric public health

Public health is about avoiding the spread of disease within a particular society - often through providing water to help people keep themselves, their animals and their surroundings clean. Is there any evidence of this in prehistoric societies?

Overview

Prehistoric people would not have had any concept of public health - they did not settle in one place, so would have seen no need to build things like sewers or hospitals.

Prehistoric family leaving cave, and its accumulated dirt and litter, on way to their next resting place

Prehistoric family leaving cave, and its accumulated dirt and litter, on way to their next resting place

It's unlikely that they had any idea of personal health either. The Australian aborigines of recent times did have some practices that seem 'healthy' - for instance, they buried their excrement far from the camp - but they did so for religious reasons (to stop an enemy finding it and stealing their spirit) rather than for medical/health reasons. There is no evidence that primitive peoples understood that there was any link between dirt and disease.

Back to Ancient Medicine index

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