Evolutionary Medicine

3D reconstruction of a mummy head with a combined CT of the dental region eines Mumienkopfes mit CT der Zahnregion

What is evolutionary medicine and of what use is it today?

Evolutionary medicine is the application of evolutionary theories to past and present medical problems. It aims to achieve an in depth understanding of disease and healing processes in the past, present and future and allows us to improve our know- ledge of diseases and their basic principles. Hence, research on mummies (and skele- tons) also helps today’s medicine.


A choice of scientific articles based on current research done at the ZEM on ancient mummies.:

  • Staub K., Rühli F., Woitek U., Pfister C.:The average height of 18- and 19-year-old conscripts (N=458, 322) in Switzerland from 1992 to 2009, and the secular height trend since 1878.Swiss Medical Weekly. 2011. 30:141:w13238.
  • Lee YC, Solomon LB, Rühli FJ, Schiess R, Ohrström L, Sullivan T, Alkadhi H, Henneberg M.:Confirmation of microevolutionary increase in spina bifida occulta among Swiss birth cohorts. Eur Spine J. 2011. 20:776-780.
  • Zweifel, L., Böni T., Rühli F.J.: Evidence-based paleopathology: Meta-analysis of PubMed-listed scientific studies on ancient Egyptian mummies. J Comp Hum Biol HOMO, 60: 405-427, 2009.
  • Haak W., Gruber P., Rühli F.J., Böni T., Frauendorf E., Ulrich-Bochsler S., Burger J., Alt K. W.: Molecular evidence in palaeopathology: First detection of HLA-B*27 in a late medieval case of suggested ankylosing spondylitis. Arthritis Rheum, 52: 3318-3319, 2005.
  • Rühli F.J., Henneberg M.: Clinical perspectives on secular trends of intervertebral foramen diameters in an industrialized European society. Eur Spine J, 13: 733-739, 2004.
  • Rühli F.J., Böni T., Henneberg M.: Hyperostosis frontalis interna: archaeological evidence of possible microevolution of human sex steroids? J Comp Hum Biol HOMO, 55: 91-100, 2004.
  • Rühli F.J., Solomon LB, Henneberg M.: High prevalence of tarsal coalition and tarsal joint variants in a recent cadaver sample and its possible significance. Clin Anat, 16: 411-415, 2003.