Talk:Prehistoric medicine

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Original Prehistoric Medicine Article Published[edit]

This article on 'Prehistoric Medicine' has been published because I felt Wikipedia was lacking an article on it. Please feel welcome to add things to this article and to contest information currently provided, but please drop a comment here before deleting or making major edits, just to be polite! Hope everyone enjoys the article. —Preceding unsigned comment added by MasterOfHisOwnDomain (talkcontribs) 09:11, 31 December 2007

Interesting article. I will attempt to do some further research, but you might also want to check out these: ,Ötzi_the_Iceman#The_body , and espically
Peace, rkmlai (talk) 20:01, 24 January 2008 (UTC)

One Month On...[edit]

It has been almost one month since the original article on Prehistoric medicine was published, back on Dec 31st 2007 and since has been the subject of many revisions and additions. The article is now almost double the size of the original and I feel a lot better thanks to help from other editors and new sources I have discovered.

But there is still a lot of work to do, I feel. Help to improve the article and make it more than just a 'stub' is always appreciated! I think the article has a lot of potential for improvement and could become a very good article in a number of portals, having been included in 3 already.

Thanks for everyone's work so far! MasterOfHisOwnDomain (talk) 16:48, 26 January 2008 (UTC)

Referencing problems[edit] and are both referencing the same Hutchinson Encyclopedia of World History article. This article doesn't cite its sources, and is rather vague about which historic peoples it is referring to. Citing other encyclopedias like this isn't a good practice; Wikipedia needs more specific sources.

The article attributes many beliefs and practices to prehistoric people in general, but some social arrangements varied from culture to culture. When discussing specifics, the article should be specific about which cultures are applicable, and what evidence there is to justify the conclusion (referencing sources). -- Beland (talk) 20:38, 3 May 2008 (UTC)

I hope I've remedied some of your concerns Beland, and although I think I have chosen my sources carefully, I will endeavour to improve in the future! Thanks for taking the time to look at (the references of at least) the article. MasterOfHisOwnDomain (talk) 20:31, 10 June 2008 (UTC)

5 Months and 18,000+ bytes later..[edit]

The topic has reached a milestone in that it is now 20,000+ bytes in length. I have absolutely no idea what bytes are, but it seems a suitably satisfying number, considering the efforts made by everyone who has contributed to the article! The article should soon be receiving a review by the History of Science, and might hopefully be upgraded to a B-status article! However I believe there is a lot more work and potential left in the article, not least on behalf of any spell-checkers/grammar-(checkers?).

Thanks everyone so far for any contributions! MasterOfHisOwnDomain (talk) 19:16, 29 May 2008 (UTC) claim[edit]

Regarding this claim:

Prehistoric people used their common-sense to understand the causes of many diseases and injuries, but most primarily the latter for which there was usually a clear cause; they did not have to blame injuries on the gods or spirits because they were able to understand how they were caused; if someone was injured by a fall then they realised that the fall must have been the cause.

This continues to use the reference, which I do not find to be reliable. This sounds to me like it could be speculation on the part of someone writing a "popular history" article. For this claim to be trustworthy, it should have a reference to some scholarly evidence, which answers the questions, "which prehistoric people are we talking about, exactly?" and "how do we know that?" -- This may require some heavy lifting, such as contacting the author of the referenced article and asking for sources, or actually visiting a library and reading some books on the subject. -- Beland (talk) 21:27, 10 June 2008 (UTC)

Specificity and referencing problems (examples)[edit]

  • Prehistoric people believed in both supernatural causes and cures for diseases
This needs a reference. If the evidence for this is that ancient historic civilizations inherited such beliefs, we need to point to a scholarly source that specifically says that for each civilization that's mentioned.
  • They blamed certain, usually serious or disabling, diseases which did not have a rational or obvious cause on the supernatural - gods, evil spirits and sorcery.
I did not find support for this in the reference, so I removed it. (In fact, that page had no mention of prehistory medicine at all.) Since the "Medicine Through Time" reference is offline, I'd like to request a supporting quote from it to verify this claim. -- Beland (talk) 21:56, 10 June 2008 (UTC)
  • As is similarly done in today's modern society, prehistoric people would apply practical treatments to ailments, before seeking the advice of a specialist, the medicine man.<ref name='Short journey'>A short journey through medicine to the end of the 18th century A fascinating medical article, though only the first page is of relevance to Prehistoric medicine</ref>
I removed this claim, since the reference supporting it is merely using speculation. To quote the source:
It is hard to believe that prehistoric man made no attempt to deal with these conditions. If early man was intelligent enough to fashion tools and weapons, it is not unreasonable to argue that he would devise or discover some methods of dealing with disease.
Natural phenomena would first come to mind: thunder, lightning, storm - magical forces, to be harnessed and used by the medicine man or priest. Witchcraft, against the evil spirits whose name is Legion, to be used alongside "domestic" remedies which did not require the specialist's attention: herbal poultices for wounds, bleeding for headaches, leeches for local pain, vapour baths for rheumatism, chants and amulets tied onto the patient and lotions for the skin.
  • The reference appears to be a BBC popularization. It does not cite its sources, so I would not consider it reliable.
  • The nomadic, hunter-gatherer lifestyle...
Not all prehistoric peoples were nomadic. Is this referring only to the Australian ones? That needs to be made clear.

-- Beland (talk) 21:56, 10 June 2008 (UTC)

  • However they would have only been able to eat fresh food
This is incorrect, in that it refers to all prehistoric people. Many societies developed agriculture and animal husbandry in prehistoric times. Many that lived in cold climates stored food through the winter.
  • there is now substantial evidence to suggest that the diet eaten by our ancestors was a beneficial one to health.
The Earth360 page doesn't cite its sources and doesn't seem to be peer-reviewed. It has a lot of detailed information, but it goes a bit overboard in some ways might just be the musings of a single M.D. who is a fan of the diet fad of the month. The page does cite its sources, but it points out that different prehistoric peoples ate different diets. This and the article focus on the Paleolithic period, though major differences remain even in that scope.
One of these pages gives a lifespan of 22 for 50 B.C. or so, which contradicts what the article says now (25-40). This number probably varies a lot by time period and geography; the details on that need to be determined.
In any case, with such short lifespans, it's unclear that the people of whatever period is being described were particularly well-fed. It does seem to be the case that eating certain foods that have been invented in modern times is unhealthy. But modern science and technology have also reduced the incidence of foodbourne illness. Is there a good source that can explain all this in a verifiable way?

-- Beland (talk) 05:28, 11 June 2008 (UTC)

  • Which time period or geographic area is the "Herbs" section referring to? -- Beland (talk) 05:52, 11 June 2008 (UTC)
  • In the Surgery section, the reference only talks about Germany, but the article implies the practice was global but concentrated in South America. -- Beland (talk) 05:52, 11 June 2008 (UTC)
  • Which societies practiced bone setting, and when? There's a reference to an offline source, "Heinemann: Medicine Through Time". -- Beland (talk) 05:52, 11 June 2008 (UTC)

I've tagged everything above that hasn't been fixed in the article. -- Beland (talk) 19:15, 11 December 2011 (UTC)

I'm grateful for you pointing out the errors, but the biggest help would be in finding the sources themselves. Almost none of the sources are of respectable quality and reliability, and I would give my previous work an entire overhaul if I had the time (this was completed many, many years ago - when my knowledge of sources etc. was poor and I had limited material to hand). I am considering revising it soon, and would be very happy to have some help if you are interested. MasterOfHisOwnDomain (talk) 23:00, 12 December 2011 (UTC)

Downgrading assessment[edit]

I've downgraded the article to "Start" class from "B" because "B" class articles apparently need to be free of inaccuracies, and I've pointed out a number of potential or actual inaccuracies above. -- Beland (talk) 05:37, 11 June 2008 (UTC)

Section, Treatment for Disease: Surgery[edit]

"There are many theories as to why it was carried out", is wrong, the word to use is hypothesis(its plural form, not singular form as noted).

"Scientific laws are similar to scientific theories in that they are principles that can be used to predict the behavior of the natural world. Both scientific laws and scientific theories are typically well-supported by observations and/or experimental evidence. Usually scientific laws refer to rules for how nature will behave under certain conditions.[9] Scientific theories are more overarching explanations of how nature works and why it exhibits certain characteristics." from Subsection entitled Scientific Laws. 2008-12-24 T00:45 Z-8 (talk) 08:45, 24 December 2008 (UTC)

Thanks, I appreciate any help with ambiguous sentences and statements and word-order changing is needed, I agree. MasterOfHisOwnDomain (talk) 19:16, 11 February 2009 (UTC)

History of Science reassessment[edit]


I have reassessed this article per the WikiProject History of Science quality scale. In my opinion the current C-class rating is still correct. The article contains a number of "citation needed" tags which disqualifies it from B class in all WikiProjects. It also contains a non-trivial amount of original research, and over-broad generalizations about shamans and particular beliefs in the supernatural. I also notice that some of the sources used to back up quite significant material are dubious - e.g. which appears to be a content farm, and not a reliable source.


Thparkth (talk) 01:08, 13 October 2011 (UTC)

Life Expectancy[edit]

I am trying to figure out how the current estimates for life expectancy have been produced, in light of certain claims that life expectancy is not a good measure, as it is biased by high infant mortality rates; further claims exist that those who did make it past a certain point might have had a long life. Do you think this is sufficient to challenge reference #6, "SHP: Medicine & Health Through Time"? If it's true, then this article would be participating in painting a false picture of prehistory. Viridium (talk) 02:01, 8 August 2012 (UTC)

Results of a complete review of References[edit]

(sigh) Well, an entire day and some 70 edits later, I've completed a full review of all 37 references in this article. All of them have been converted into Help:Citation Style 1 cites. Dead links have been investigated, and all but one of them restored. Cryptic references to books were tracked down. ISBN's added. Publishers of websites identified. I think you may find the results interesting.

The first finding was that the most cryptic or incomplete references were almost invariably to low grade material. Children's books, high school websites, web news articles, and the like. The most complete references were most likely to be high quality books and journals. What this has taught me is that when looking at incomplete references, a red flag should go up immediately. It's likely to be a low quality reference. They may have snuck in years ago, and have gone unnoticed, because no one took the time to figure out what that cryptic reference is pointing to.

I've added up the types of refs and came up with: 10 Books, 4 of which are chidren's books or high school textbooks, 1 is from 1922, and 5 are reasonably current adult books. There are 4 peer-reviewed journal articles, 2 from news websites, 19 general websites (15 of which are low quality sources), and 2 are references back to Wikipedia, itself. There was even a "reference" to a fan site for a popular SciFi comedy, which I simply deleted entirely, and is not included in the 37.

As for the references to Wikipedia, let me call your attention to WP:CIRCULAR which explains why Wikipedia cannot be used as a reference.

I don't want to belabor the point, but I did find the results disappointing. But now that this work has been done, and and all the refs are working to the point where you can identify the sources and evaluate them for yourself, this would be a good time to take advantage of that, sort the wheat from the chafe, and to replace the more questionable references with better sources. I'm sure that the process will turn up new and interesting information that will greatly improve this article. And the result will be something to be proud of. Looking forward to seeing that happen. Face-smile.svg

Hi-storian (talk) 09:50, 31 December 2015 (UTC)

Good work, though possibly a little on the long side. I note in passing (I won't be back here, it's not my area) that Surgery and Dentistry are not "Medicine", which after all means the use of appropriate drugs; though they are part of a broader topic of "Healing". Chiswick Chap (talk) 17:30, 5 January 2016 (UTC)
@Chiswick Chap: Perhaps this may be true today ... though I note that both physicians and surgons go to "medical school" and are members of the AMA, and that dentists get a DMD degree. Certainly, in this time period, the guy who was bold enough to try trepanning also drilled and pulled teeth and ground up plants. But I do agree that they should be three separate sections on the same level, I don't think that's the case, right now. When I wrote that, I was just focusing on identifying some very cryptic references and was perhaps a bit underwhelmed by seeing one of them was for ages 9 & up. Hi-storian (talk) 22:44, 5 January 2016 (UTC)
All right, a post-final post after my leaving party. Not only now: surgeons and dentists did not in the 18th century call themselves doctors. I don't think prehistoric man had categories for such things, except perhaps "shaman" or "healer", and possibly "witch", the last of these being the most likely to cook up strange medicines, after all. Chiswick Chap (talk) 07:35, 6 January 2016 (UTC)

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