AAPA Professional Development Grant leads to NSF award for Professor Sharon DeWitte
by Ed Hagen — last modified May 13, 2013 04:22 PM
The Black Death was one of the most destructive epidemics in history. Assistant Professor Sharon DeWitte at the University of South Carolina has been examining temporal changes in plague mortality patterns and the effects of the Black Death on the demographic and health conditions of surviving populations as a model for understanding the human response to emerging diseases. Funded by a 2012 AAPA Professional Development Grant, DeWitte collected paleodemographic data from several medieval London cemeteries. Among a number of interesting findings, DeWitte reports greater longevity combined with an increased frequency of periosteal lesions in the post-Black Death sample. DeWitte suggests that enhanced survival but relatively poor skeletal health at later adult ages might account for the post-Black Death pattern, a trend observed in living populations where improvements in mortality and longevity are often associated with declines in health status later in life. DeWitte is continuing her work on the health and demographic effects of the Black Death, having successfully turned her AAPA Professional Development Grant into a National Science Foundation award funded jointly by Biological Anthropology and Cultural Anthropology. Congratulations Professor DeWitte!