Live chat with evolutionary geneticist Hendrik Poinar

This week, researchers described an ambitious project to study 1000 years of sickness and health in people buried since the year 1039 in one graveyard along a well-known pilgrimage route in Tuscany, Italy.

By studying the skeletons of farmers, peasants, monks, and nobles, paleopathologists hope to find out what diseases killed people from medieval times until the present—and how their overall health fluctuated during famine, war, climate change, and other challenges.

They are also using new tools, such as ancient DNA, to trace the origins and evolution of deadly pathogens that cause plague, TB, cholera, and other illnesses. Why is it important to study our ancestors’ health? What are we learning from studying ancient diseases? And what impact can studying the evolution of pathogens have on treating or preventing modern epidemics?

Join Science magazine on Thursday, 12 December, at 3 p.m. EST for a live video chat. Guests will be two experts on studying ancient diseases with two different methods—using ancient DNA or studying fossil bones.