Archeology of Pandemics

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Brought to you by Odyssey

March 3, 2022 - April 7, 2022 (6 sessions)
Friday, April 8, 2022 - Optional In-Person Field Trip to the Library of Congress
Thursdays, 6:30 - 8:00 PM ET

This class will focus on one of the most important issues of our time, the history, science, and archaeology of pandemics. From the diseases of the mummies of the pharaohs of ancient Egypt to the current SARs-CoV-2 pandemic, we will examine what is known from archaeological evidence, historical manuscripts, along with ancient DNA and molecular biology, about the long history of large-scale human disease outbreaks and pandemics. Participants will learn how ancient DNA evidence, combined with historical records, is shedding new light on the deep history of diseases like smallpox and other pathogens, and learn how cultures of the past dealt with the pathologies caused by viral and bacterial diseases. The course will also survey the history of zoonotic spillover and what archaeological and historical evidence can tell us about its long history, including modern zoonotic diseases like HIV, Ebola, and COVID-19. 

The course will include an optional field trip to the Library of Congress to look at rare materials relating to the history of diseases and medical texts from the medieval and early modern periods that help shed light on our current pandemic.

Johns Hopkins Tuition Remission Policies
Current and retired full-time Johns Hopkins faculty and staff, as well as their spouses or domestic partners, are eligible for tuition remission. Eligibility details can be found here.

After registration, tuition remission eligibility will be confirmed by the Odyssey registrar. If eligibility cannot be confirmed, you will be required to pay full tuition for the course. Under the terms of the University’s remission program, Hopkins employees must withdraw in writing at least five working days before the first class to receive a 100% refund. No partial refunds are given to JHU employees and affiliates. All other participants should review the JHAA Event


ABOUT John Hessler
Specialist in Computational Geogeography and Geographic Information Science at the Library of Congress; Instructor, Odyssey Program


When not climbing in the Alps, searching for rare plants in the desert, or mountain biking through some jungle, John Hessler is the curator of the Jay I. Kislak Collection of the Archaeology and History of the Early Americas at the Library of Congress, and a lecturer at the Rare Book School, at the University of Virginia, teaching the linguistics of the Mesoamerican Codex.

He is the author of more than one hundred articles and books on archaeology and exploration, including the New York Times bestseller, MAP: Exploring the World, and his work has been featured in many media outlets including the New York TimesWashington Post, the BBCCBS News and NPR’s All Things Considered. His most recent book, Collecting for a New World, examines the history of the archaeological collections at the Library of Congress, where he also writes the Excavating Archaeology Series for the blog, Worlds Revealed.

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 Event Date
Thursday, March 3, 2022
6:30pm EDT

Friday, April 8, 2022
8:00pm EDT

1-800-JHU-JHU1 (548-5481)

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Thank you for your interest in Odyssey. This course is now closed. For questions, please contact or revisit the website and try something new!