Article

Bioarchaeology

Kristina Killgrove

in Anthropology

ISBN: 9780199766567
Published online September 2013 | | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199766567-0121
Bioarchaeology

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  • Anthropology
  • Human Evolution
  • Medical Anthropology
  • Physical Anthropology
  • Social and Cultural Anthropology

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The study of the human bodies of past cultures, bioarchaeology became a major research area in the social sciences by the late 1970s. Originally influenced by the development of New Archaeology in the United States, bioarchaeology has become one of the more scientifically focused fields of social research (see also the OBO article on Processual Archaeology). By blending archaeology, biology, and cultural anthropology with theory and methods drawn from sociology, demography, chemistry, statistics, history, and forensics, among others, contemporary bioarchaeologists bring a multidisciplinary perspective to the past 10,000 years of humanity. Within that time-frame, humans developed agriculture and domesticated animals; both of these cultural advances have proven detrimental to the human body, particularly in terms of a decrease in health, which bioarchaeologists can see in the patterning of disease and trauma in skeletal remains. Economic changes such as the advent of agriculture also brought changes in the activities and behaviors that people engaged in, with a division in labor along gender lines evident in the biological remains of many societies. Another hallmark of humanity is migration: Homo sapiens have successfully inhabited much of the earth, with our cultural capabilities allowing us to invent ways of dealing with new ecological challenges and our biological make-up allowing us to adapt physically to new environmental conditions. Yet struggles for land and other necessary resources have a lengthy history, much of which can be read in the injuries seen in the skeletons of people subjected to violence and warfare. Bioarchaeology seeks to tell the stories of our collective ancestors. From the Roman legionnaire to the indigenous Britons he was tasked with subduing, from the sacrificed Aztec child to the people whose lives depended on the appeasement of their deity, from the African woman brought to the United States through the transatlantic slave trade to her white owners, bioarchaeology strives to understand how these people both individually and collectively contributed to world history.

Article.  19067 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology ; Human Evolution ; Medical Anthropology ; Physical Anthropology ; Social and Cultural Anthropology

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