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Dr. Piers Mitchell

Affiliated Lecturer
E-mail: pdm39@cam.ac.uk


BACKGROUND
Trained as a paleopathologist, palaeoparasitologist, physical anthropologist, medical historian, and children's orthopaedic surgeon.
President of the British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology (BABAO) 2012-2015.
Editorial Board Member of the International Journal of Paleopathology. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, and PostMedieval: a Journal of Medieval Cultural Studies.
Founding Editor of the Cambridge Studies in Osteoarchaeology book series, to be published by Cambridge University Press.

TEACHING 
I teach a course on Human Evolution and Health. This explores how disease has shaped the way humans have evolved, and also how diseases have evolved to exploit humans. After considering the different techniques available to investigate health in past populations, we discuss the biological and genetic impact of disease upon natural selection. The cultural consequences of ill health will also be explored, including the social and religious interpretation of why people became ill, coping strategies by past civilizations to live with diseases significant in their societies, and attempts to heal the sick.

RESEARCH INTEREST
The interaction between humans and parasites throughout evolution. 
Disease and health in the crusades to the medieval Middle East.


CURRENT PROJECTS

Parasites in Past Civilizations and their Impact Upon Health.
Health in the Crusades: Epidemics, Malnutrition, and the Medieval Physician. 
Anatomical Dissection, Autopsy, and Pathology Museums in Britain from 1700. 
The Health of King Richard III of England.

RESEARCH DESCRIPTION

Parasites in Past Civilizations and their Impact Upon Health aims to evaluate how chronic parasitism has shaped mankind's past. The first stage of the project is to increase the number of geographic locations and time periods studied for evidence of intestinal parasites and dysentery in humans. This research will be undertaken in the lab at the Henry Wellcome Building by Piers and his research students, collaborating with archaeologists around the world who send soil samples from latrines, cesspools and the pelvic area of excavated human remains from past societies. This research has included samples from the UK, Baltic States, eastern Mediterranean, Middle East, Africa and Taiwan. We have a collaborative project set up with the Museum of London to study latrines from throughout London's history in order to detect when different parasites were introduced, for example at the time of the crusades, the transatlantic voyages of discovery, and the African Slave trade. After optimizing the data available, a synthesis of all parasite findings throughout human history will be undertaken in order to understand when different parasitic worms started to cause disease in humans, and how they were spread around the world with migration. The impact that such parasites had on human evolution and the major civilizations of the past will also be explored, and a book published by Cambridge University Press.

Health in the Crusades: Epidemics, Malnutrition, and the Medieval Physician aims to investigate the state of health of those that took part in the crusades to the Middle East during the 12th and 13th centuries AD. The approach used is a combination of biological anthropology, archaeology and medical history. This research follows on from Piers' research into medieval weapon injuries and their medical treatment at the time of the crusades, published as the book Medicine in the Crusades by Cambridge University Press in 2004. The current project evaluates evidence for diseases of peacetime, such as epidemics, malnutrition, chronic diseases such as leprosy, parasites and mental health problems. It also discusses the evidence for the attempted treatment for illness by medieval physicians and others with dietary modification, bloodletting, drugs, medicinal bathing, healing pilgrimage, and prayer. When complete, a book will be published on this topic.

Anatomical Dissection, Autopsy, and Pathology Museums in Britain from 1700 was a symposium held in the department in May 2010. The aim was to investigate the how the medical profession and society viewed exploring the healthy and diseased human body in the last three centuries in the UK. Biological anthropologists, medical historians and pathology museum curators came together to discuss recent evidence for how anatomy was taught to student doctors via dissection in the 1700s, how trainee surgeons learned operations on cadavers, the social consequences of where these bodies came from (often body snatching), and how and why examples of disease were preserved and stored for research and education in pathology museums. The edited collection of articles was published by Ashgate Publishing in 2012.

King Richard III was excavated from a car park on Leicester in September 2012. He had been buried in the church of the Greyfriars following the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. I have been working with the archaeologists at Leicester to understand the diseases he had during his lifetime. My analysis of his intestinal parasites has demonstrated that he had roundworm infection in his intestines. Assessment of his spinal deformity demonstrated that he had adolescent onset idiopathic scoliosis.

 

PhD Students

1)Evilena Anastasiou – The Palaeoparasitology of the Eastern Mediterranean and Adjacent Regions: Understanding Intestinal Diseases Through Time. 2009-2013.

2)Ivy Hui-Yuan Yeh – Parasites in Ancient Populations from Taiwan and Neighboring Regions: Evidece for Health, Migration and Diet. 2012-2015.

3)Jenna Dittmar-Blado – An Archaeological Examination of the Formalisation of Human Dissection and Autopsy During the 19th Century. 2012-2015.


Media Appearances

Filmed and/or Paid Specialist Consultant for the following TV programmes: 
In Search of Syphilis, broadcast on BBC2 in Sept 2002. 
Moments in time: the Crusades, broadcast on Discovery Channel, Aug 2003. 
Holy Warriors: Richard and Saladin, broadcast on BBC2 in December 2004. 
The Crusades, broadcast on BBC2 in May 2005. 
The Crusaders’ Lost Fort, Timewatch, broadcast on BBC2 in April 2006.
The Science of Crucifixion, Prospect Pictures, broadcast on Discovery Channel, April 2012.
You Tube Short Film. ‘The Body Snatchers: Corpse and Effect.’ Cambridge University, October 2012.
Richard III: King in the Car Park, Darlow Smithson Productions, broadcast Channel 4, February 2013.
Richard III: The Unseen Story, Darlow Smithson Prodiuctions, broadcast More4, February 2013.
Medieval Dead: Pestilence and Disease, Dragnonshead Productions, UKTV Yesterday, 2013.
Richard III: New Discoveries, Darlow Smithson Productions, broadcast Channel 4, 2013.
BBC News 24 interview on the parasites of Richard III, broadcast worldwide Sept 2013.
Associated Press interview on the parasites of Richard III, broadcast worldwide Sept 2013.

Radio interviews on national programs discussing my research, for example:
UK:       BBC Radio (multiple stations) Sept 2013, regarding Richard III intestinal parasites study.
BBC Radio 4 (Today Program) March 2006, regarding my crucifixion study.
USA:    Science Update (AAAS), June 2008, on dysentery in the crusades.
Australia: ABC Radio National (The Ark) May 2007, on medicine in the crusades. 

 

PUBLICATIONS

Books

Mitchell, P.D. 2004. Medicine in the Crusades: Warfare, Wounds and the Medieval Surgeon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mitchell, P.D. (ed) 2011. Anatomical Dissection in Enlightenment Britain and Beyond: Autopsy, Pathology and Display. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Mitchell, P.D., Buckberry, J. (eds) 2011. Proceedings of the 12th Annual Conference of the British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology (BABAO). Oxford: Archaeopress.

Mitchell, P.D. (ed) (forthcoming) Sanitation, Latrines and Intestinal Parasites in Past Populations. Ashgate: Farnham.

Mitchell, P.D., de Bailly, M. (forthcoming) Parasites in Past Civilizations and their Impact Upon Health. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

 

Guest Editorship of Journal Issues

Paleoparasitology. International Journal of Paleopathology. 2013. Nine articles on different aspects of ancient parasites, with authors from around the world.


Biological Anthropology Publication List

Mitchell, P.D., Yeh, H.-Y., Appleby, J., Buckley, R. (2013) The intestinal parasites of King Richard III. The Lancet 382: 888.

Mitchell, P.D., Millard, A.R. (2013) Approaches to the study of migration during the crusades. Crusades 12: 1-12.

Mitchell, P.D. (2013) The origins of human parasites: exploring the evidence for endoparasitism throughout human evolution. International Journal of Paleopathology doi: 10.1016/j.ijpp.2013.08.003.

Mitchell, P.D. (2013) Editorial: the importance of research into ancient parasites. International Journal of Paleopathology doi: 10.1016/j.ijpp.2013.08.002.

Mitchell, P.D. (2013) Crusades: Middle East migration, medieval era. In: The Encyclopedia of Global Migration. Ed. I. Ness, Blackwell Publishing. doi:10.1002/9781444351071.wbeghm153.

Mitchell, P.D.
(2013) Violence and the crusades: warfare, injuries and torture in the medieval Middle East. In: Knüsel, C., Smith, M. (eds) A History of Human Conflict: Osteology and Traumatised Bodies from Earliest Prehistory to the Present. New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis pp.251-62.

Anastasiou, E., Mitchell, P.D. (2013) Human intestinal parasites from a latrine in the 12th century Frankish castle of Saranda Kolones in Cyprus. International Journal of Paleopathology doi: 10.1016/j.ijpp.2013.04.003.

Anastasiou, E. Mitchell, P.D. (2013) Simplifying the process for extracting parasitic worm eggs from cesspool and latrine sediments: a trial comparing the efficacy of widely used techniques for disaggregation. International Journal of Paleopathology doi: 10.1016/j.ijpp.2013.04.004.

Anastasiou, E., Mitchell, P.D. (2013) Evolutionary anthropology and genes: investigating the genetics of human evolution from excavated skeletal remains. Gene 528(1): 27-32.

Anastasiou, E., Mitchell, P.D. (2013) Paleopathology and genes: investigating the genetics of infectious diseases in excavated human skeletal remains and mummies from past populations. Gene 528(1): 33-40.

Mitchell, P.D. (2012) There’s more to dissection than Burke and Hare: unknowns in the teaching of anatomy and pathology from the enlightenment to the early twentieth century in England. In: Mitchell, P.D. (ed) Anatomical Dissection in Enlightenment Britain and Beyond: Autopsy, Pathology and Display. Ashgate: Aldershot p.1-10.

Mitchell, P.D.,
Chauhan, V. (2012) Understanding the content of the Westminster Hospital pathology museum during the 1800s. In: Mitchell, P.D. (ed) Anatomical Dissection in Enlightenment Britain and Beyond: Autopsy, Pathology and Display. Ashgate: Aldershot p.139-54.

Mitchell, P.D., Buckberry, J. (2012) Introduction: biological anthropology. In: Proceedings of the 12th Conference of the British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology, Ed. P.D. Mitchell, J. Buckberry. Oxford: Archaeopress p.1-2.

Anastasiou, E., Mitchell, P.D., Jeffries, N. (2012) The paleoparasitology of 17th-18th century London. In: Proceedings of the 12th Conference of the British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology, Ed. P.D. Mitchell, J. Buckberry. Oxford: Archaeopress p.53-61.

Blondiaux, J., Fontaine, C., Demondion, X., Flipo, R.-M., Colard, T., Mitchell, P.D., Buzon, M., Walker, P. (2012) Bilateral fractures of the scapula: possible archaeological examples of beatings from Europe, Africa and America. International Journal of Paleopathology 2(4): 223-30.

Lo, K., Mitchell, P.D. (2012) A doorway to an invaded mind: using pathology museum specimens to understand the effects of neurosyphilis in 1930s London. In: Mitchell, P.D. (ed) Anatomical Dissection in Enlightenment Britain and Beyond: Autopsy, Pathology and Display. Ashgate: Aldershot p.155-64.

Smith, M., Knüsel, C., Chamberlain, A., Mitchell, P.D. (2012) Skeleton of ‘the Irish giant’: we cannot change the past, but we can learn from it. BMJ 344: e556.

Mitchell, P.D., Anastasiou, E., Syon, D. (2011) Human intestinal parasites in crusader Acre: evidence for migration with disease in the Medieval Period. International Journal of Paleopathology 1: 132-37.

Mitchell, P.D.,
Redfern, R.C. (2011) Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip in Medieval London. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 144: 479-84.

Mitchell, P.D. (2011) Retrospective diagnosis, and the use of historical texts for investigating disease in the past. International Journal of Paleopathology 1: 81-88.

Mitchell, P.D., Boston, C., Chamberlain, A., Chaplin, S., Chauhan, V., Evans, J., Fowler, L., Powers, N., Walker, D., Webb, H., Witkin, A. (2011) The study of anatomy in England from 1700 to the early 20th century. Journal of Anatomy 219(2): 91-99.

Mitchell, P.D. The spread of disease with the crusades. In: Between Text and Patient: The Medical Enterprise in Medieval and Early Modern Europe. Ed. B. Nance and E.F. Glaze. Florence: Sismel 2011, p.309-330.

Mitchell, P.D. Integrating historical sources with paleopathology. In: A. Grauer (ed) Companion to Paleopathology. New York: Wiley-Blackwell 2011, p.310-323.

Villotte, S., Knüsel, C., Mitchell, PD., Henry-Gambier, D. (2011) Probable carpometacarpal and tarsal coalition from Baousso da Torre Cave (Italy): implications for burial selection during the Gravettian. Journal of Human Evolution 61: 117-120.

Wagner, T.G., Mitchell, P.D. (2011) The illnesses of King Richard and King Philippe on the Third Crusade: an understanding of arnaldia and leonardie. Crusades 10: 23-44.

Mitchell, P.D. Military Medicine. Oxford Dictionary of the Middle Ages. Ed. R.E. Bjork. Oxford: Oxford University Press 2010, vol.3, p.1142-3.

Mitchell, P.D. Disease. Medieval Warfare and Military Technology: an Encyclopedia. Ed. C. Rogers. Oxford: Oxford University Press 2010 vol.1, p.540-1.

Mitchell, P.D. Military Medicine: Medical treatment. Medieval Warfare and Military Technology: an Encyclopedia. Ed. C. Rogers. Oxford: Oxford University Press 2010 vol.2, p.585-89.

Mitchell, P.D., Millard, A. (2009) Migration to the medieval Middle East with the Crusades. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 140: 518-25.

Mitchell, P.D. (2009) A revised radiocarbon date for a case of treponemal disease from Safed, Israel, from the Fifteenth Century AD. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 139(2): 274.

Malhan, N.K., Greenslade, T., Mitchell, P.D. (2009) George Guthrie’s clinical trial at the Napoleonic War Battle of Toulouse in 1814. Journal of Medical Biography 17: 139-43.

Clarke, B., Mitchell, P.D. Tuberculosis of the hip in Victorian Britain. In: Lewis, M. Clegg, M. (ed) Proceedings of the 9th Conference of the British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology. Oxford: Archaeopress 2009 p.53-9.

Mitchell, P.D., Stern, E., Tepper, Y. (2008) Dysentery in the crusader kingdom of Jerusalem: an ELISA analysis of two medieval latrines in the city of Acre (Israel). Journal of Archaeological Science 35(7): 1849-53.

Mitchell, P.D., Redfern, R. (2008) Diagnositic criteria for developmental dislocation of the hip in excavated human skeletal remains. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 18(1): 61-71.

Mitchell, P.D. Contrasts in the standard of health in different communities in the medieval Kingdom of Jerusalem. In: Upton-Ward, J. (ed) The Military Orders: volume 4. On Land and by Sea. Aldershot: Ashgate 2008 p.23-8.

Mitchell, P.D. Combining palaeopathological and historical evidence for health in the crusades. In: Smith M, and Brickley, M. (eds) Proceedings of the 8th Annual Conference of the British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology. Oxford: Archaeopress 2008 p.9-16.

Mitchell, P.D., Huntley, J., Sterns, E. Bioarchaeological analysis of the 13th century latrines of the crusader hospital of St. John at Acre, Israel. In: Mallia-Milanes, V. (ed) The Military Orders: volume 3. Their History and Heritage. Aldershot: Ashgate 2008 p.213-23.

Mitchell, P.D. (2008) Comment on ‘Diet, tuberculosis and the paleopathological record’, by AK Wilbur, AW Farnbach, KJ Knudson, JE Buikstra. Current Anthropology 49(6): 979-80.

Suliman, A., Mitchell, P.D. Tuberculosis of the shoulder in a Victorian girl: how the invention of radiographs overturned a diagnosis of hysteria. In: Smith M, and Brickley, M. (eds) Proceedings of the 8th Annual Conference of the British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology. Oxford: Archaeopress 2008 p.93-99.

Brent, L. Mitchell, P.D. Rickets in Victorian London: why treatment was ineffective for so long. In: Smith M, and Brickley, M. (eds) Proceedings of the 8th Annual Conference of the British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology. Oxford: Archaeopress 2008 p.67-78.

Mitchell, P.D., Tepper, Y. (2007) Intestinal parasitic worm eggs from a crusader period cesspool in the city of Acre (Israel). Levant 39: 91-5.

Mitchell, P.D., Millard, A.R. (2007) Migration in the crusades to the medieval Middle East. British Academy Review 10: 24-5.

Mitchell, P.D. Challenges in the study of health and disease in the crusaders. In: Faces from the Past: Diachronic Patterns in the Biology and Health Status of Human Populations of the Eastern Mediterranean. Ed. M. Faerman, L.K. Horwitz, T. Kahana, U. Zilberman. BAR international series 1603. Oxford: Archaeopress, 2007 p.205-12.

Mitchell, P.D., Redfern, R. (2007) The prevalence of dislocation in developmental dysplasia of the hip in Britain over the past thousand years. Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics  28(7): 280-2.

Patel, R., Mitchell, P.D. The search for Rosa Pike: congenital syphilis in 1880s London. Proceedings of the Seventh Annual Conference of the British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology. Ed. S.R. Zakrzewski and W. White. Oxford: Archaeopress 2007 p.49-53.

Bailey, J., Mitchell, P.D. (2007) A case for Sherlock Holmes: forensic investigation of a gunshot wound to the head dating from Victorian London. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 17: 100-4.

Mitchell, P.D., Nagar, Y., Ellenblum, R. (2006) Weapon injuries in the 12th century crusader garrison of Vadum Iacob castle, Galilee. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 16 (2): 145-55.

Mitchell, P.D. (2006) Child health in the crusader period inhabitants of Tel Jezreel, Israel. Levant 38: 37-44.

Mitchell, P.D. (2006) Trauma in the crusader period city of Caesarea: a major port in the medieval eastern Mediterranean. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 16: 493-505.

Mitchell, P.D. The infirmaries of the Order of the Temple in the medieval kingdom of Jerusalem. In: The Medieval Hospital and Medical Practice: Bridging the Evidence. Ed. B. Bowers. Aldershot: Ashgate 2006 p.225-34.

Mitchell, P.D. The torture of military captives during the crusades to the medieval Middle East. In: Noble Ideals and Bloody Realities: Warfare in the Middle Ages, 378-1492. Ed. N. Christie and M. Yazigi. Leiden: E.J. Brill 2006 p.97-118.

Maslen, M., Mitchell, P.D. (2006) Medical theories on the cause of death in crucifixion. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 99: 185-8.

Mitchell, P.D. Disease. Encyclopedia of the Crusades. Ed. A.V. Murray. 4 vols. Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio, 2006, vol.2, p.358-60.

Mitchell, P.D. Warfare Injuries. Encyclopedia of the Crusades. Ed. A.V. Murray. 4 vols. Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio, 2006, vol.4, p.1254-5.

Mitchell, P.D. (2004) The palaeopathology of skulls recovered from a medieval cave cemetery at Safed, Israel (thirteenth to seventeenth century). Levant 36: 243-50.

Mitchell, P.D. Evidence for elective surgery in the Frankish states of the near east in the crusader period (12th-13th centuries). In: Gesundheit–Krankheit: Kulturtransfer Medizinischen Wissens von der Spätantike bis in die Frühe Neuzeit. Ed. K.P. Jankrift & F. Steger. Cologne: Böhlau-Verlag 2004, pp.121-38.

Mitchell, P.D. (2003) Pre-Columbian treponemal disease from 14th century AD Safed, Israel and the implications for the medieval eastern Mediterranean. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 121(2): 117-24.

Mitchell, P.D. The myth of the spread of leprosy with the crusades. In: The Past and Present of Leprosy. C. Roberts, K. Manchester, M. Lewis (eds). Oxford: Archaeopress. 2002 pp.175-81.

Mitchell, P.D., Stern, E. Parasitic intestinal helminth ova from the latrines of the 13th century crusader hospital of St. John in Acre, Israel. In: Proceedings of the XIIIth European Meeting of the Paleopathology Association, Chieti Italy. Ed. M. La Verghetta, L. Capasso. Teramo: Edigrafital S.p.A. 2001 pp.207-13.

Mitchell, P.D. An evaluation of the leprosy of King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem in the context of the mediaeval world. Appendix in: B. Hamilton, The Leper King and his Heirs: Baldwin IV and the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2000 pp.245-58.

Mitchell, P.D. (2000) The evolution of social attitudes to the medical care of those with leprosy within the Crusader States. In: Lépreux et Sociabilité du Moyen Âge et Temps Modernes. Ed. B. Tabuteax. Cahiers du GRHIS series no.11, Rouen: University of Rouen, p.21-8.

Mitchell, P.D. (1999) The integration of the palaeopathology and medical history of the crusades. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology  9(5): 333-343.

Mitchell, P.D. Tuberculosis in the crusades. In: Tuberculosis: Past and Present  ed. G. Palfi, O. Dutour, J. Deak, I. Hutas. Golden Book-TB Foundation: Budapest-Szeged, Hungary  1999 p.43-9.

Mitchell, P.D. The archaeological approach to the study of disease in the Crusader States, as employed at Le Petit Gérin. In: The Military Orders. Volume 2. Welfare and Warfare   ed. H. Nicholson. Ashgate: Aldershot 1998 pp.43-50.

Mitchell, P.D. (1997) Further evidence of disease in the Crusader Period population of Le Petit Gérin  (Tel Jezreel, Israel)  Tel Aviv   24(1): 169-79.

Zias, J. and Mitchell, P.D.  (1996) Psoriatic arthritis in a fifth century Judean Desert monastery  American Journal of Physical Anthropology  101: 491-502.

Mitchell, P.D. (1994) Pathology in the Crusader Period: human skeletal remains from Tel Jezreel  Levant   26: 67-71.

Mitchell, P.D. (1993) Leprosy and the case of King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem: mycobacterial disease in the Crusader States of the 12th and 13th centuries. International Journal of Leprosy and Other Mycobacterial Diseases  61(2): 283-91.

 

 


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