One Health is a global movement, highlighting the necessity for a joined-up approach to all aspects of health care for humans, animals, plants and the wider environment. These health issues arise from an increasing human population and associated intensification of food production, urbanisation, globalisation, climate change, and conflict. None of these are exclusively modern phenomena and they can be contextualised by a deep time archaeological perspective to inform current mitigation strategies. We have access to large quantities of human, animal and plant remains, soils, minerals and landscapes that can be characterised and analysed to understand the dynamics of human-animal-environmental health over millennia.
Our department’s research connects environmental evidence with settlement, human-animal life expectancy and disease data, as well as isotope studies of diet and migration. Investigations of high-resolution ice core, landscape surveys of ancient mines and human remains are showing us the health implication of lead pollution in Europe from prehistory to the present. We are also exploring how diseases, but also medical knowledge, travelled along the Silk Road.
Many of our students research cultural attitudes to health and medicinal practices, particularly the significance of humoral medicine and elemental philosophy to pre-Enlightenment societies. These ancient philosophies recognised that human well-being was intimately linked to the wider physical world. As such, they represented the original One Health concept, to which we might consider returning.