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2, June 2002 ( C 2002)
Bioarchaeology: The Lives and Lifestyles of Past People
Clark Spencer Larsen1
Skeletons represent the most direct evidence of the biology of past populations, and their study provides insight into health and well-being, dietary history, lifestyle (activity), violence and trauma, ancestry, and demography. These areas help inform our understanding of a range of issues, such as the causes and consequences of adaptive shifts in the past (e.g., foraging to farming, sedentarism), the biological impact of invasion and colonization, differential access to food and other resources (e.g., by gender or status), and conﬂict and warfare. Central to bioarchaeological inquiry are the interaction between biology and behavior and the role of environment on health and lifestyle. Bioarchaeological analysis has traditionally focused on local settings. However, important perspective on general questions of human adaptation is possible both regionally and globally.
KEY WORDS: diet; health; lifestyle; population history; paleodemography.
INTRODUCTION A person’s skeleton is remarkably informative about their health and wellbeing, dietary history, lifestyle (activity), ancestry, and key biological attributes (i.e., age and sex) that are used to construct demographic proﬁles of the population from which they originate. This paper discusses how these areas are documented and interpreted via the study of human remains recovered from archaeological settings. The literature in bioarchaeology is large and growing, and I necessarily limit this discussion to a representative rather than a comprehensive treatment of the topic (see Larsen, 1997; Mays, 1998, for comprehensive treatments). Bioarchaeology has its origins in human osteology, a ﬁeld that pertains mostly to the anatomical study of skeletal remains. Osteologists are interested in a range
1 Department of Anthropology, 244 Lord Hall, 244 West 17th Avenue, Ohio State University, Columbus,
Ohio 43210-1364; e-mail: Larsen.firstname.lastname@example.org. 119
2002 Plenum Publishing Corporation
of issues, but from a historical perspective racial typology and classiﬁcation dominated in the United States and elsewhere, and still has lingering inﬂuences in the human biological sciences (see Armelagos et al., 1982; Larsen, 1987, 1997; Wolpoff and Caspari, 2000). In settings where skeletal morphology of human groups differs temporally, morphological differences between earlier and later populations were often interpreted to reﬂect population diffusion and replacement. For example, in the Nile Valley of Sudanese Nubia later populations with relatively short, round skulls were seen as having replaced earlier populations with long, narrow skulls. Processually oriented studies revealed, however, that these differences in skull shape were likely due to changes in chewing and mechanical loading of the jaws and teeth in the same population over time and not to diffusion and replacement (Carlson and Van Gerven, 1977). Similar trends in cranial form have been documented in many areas globally, which may reﬂect common adaptations to changing dietary circumstances and subsistence-related technology (reviewed in Larsen, 1995, 1997). The study of cranial morphology from an adaptive perspective is illustrative of the paradigm change in biological anthropology ﬁrst articulated by Sherwood Washburn (1947a,b) in his pioneering experimental research on laboratory animals relating food consistency (hard vs. soft) and cranial form and his call for replacing the typological approach to human variation with an adaptive approach (Washburn, 1951). For skeletal biologists dealing with past populations, this approach was not readily adopted, leading Armelagos et al. (1982) to push for the wider use of the adaptive approach to the study of past human variation. In the 20 years since Armelagos et al.’s assessment of skeletal biology (Armelagos et al., 1982), there has been considerable progress in the ﬁeld. In the following discussion I highlight some recent developments in bioarchaeology, including dietary reconstruction from bone chemistry, infectious disease, physiological stress, violence and trauma, dental function and tooth use, lifestyle (activity), population history and biological relatedness, and paleodemography. DIETARY RECONSTRUCTION FROM BONE CHEMISTRY Diet (the foods the consumer eats) and nutrition (the nutrients these foods provide) are fundamental elements of a person’s health and well-being. Moreover, the kinds of foods produced and eaten play an important role in how a society is structured (e.g., simple vs. complex) and settlement pattern (e.g., sedentary vs. mobile) (see Smith, 1995). The knowledge of what people ate in the past also helps us interpret health in these settings. Poor nutrition is often linked to elevated levels of infectious disease and stress (and see below). Dietary reconstruction in archaeological contexts is often based on plant and animal remains. Plants and animals, of course, provide valuable perspectives on diet, but they largely document the presence of a particular food or group of foods and not the quantity of a food or foods. Just because a particular plant
has been identiﬁed in an archaeological assemblage does not mean that it was an important element of the diet for a population. Therefore, quantiﬁcation is a necessary requisite for drawing meaningful inferences about nutrition. Bone chemistry provides a powerful approach for documenting diet and for assessing the importance of particular foods in past populations (see reviews in Katzenberg, 2000; Larsen, 1997; Sandford and Weaver, 2000; Schoeninger, 1995). The most important breakthrough in dietary and nutritional studies is analysis of ratios of speciﬁc stable isotopes in skeletal and dental tissues of past populations. The most studied of the stable isotopes are the carbon stable isotopes 13 C and 12 C. Carbon stable isotope ratio analysis is based on the fact that plants eaten by humans (and other animals) extract and metabolize carbon from atmospheric carbon dioxide differently through the process of photosynthesis. Owing to the manner in which the carbon is utilized in the different types of photosynthesis—C3 (CalvinBenson), C4 (Hatch-Slack), and CAM (crassulacean acid metabolism)—very small differences in the ratio of 13 C/12 C (called δ 13 C in ppm or ‰) are expressed in the plant tissue. The isotope ratio differences in the plants also are reﬂected in bones, teeth, and other tissues of the animal and human consumers (Tieszen, 1991). In some settings of the New World (e.g., most of eastern North America), maize was the only major C4 plant consumed by humans, whereas most other plants were C3 plants. For these settings, carbon stable isotope ratio analysis has resulted in a precise picture of the adoption of C4 plant domesticates as well as their increase (or decrease) in importance (Fig. 1; see Ambrose, 1987; Hutchinson et al., 1998;
Fig. 1. Plot of δ 13 C values from eastern North America. Less negative values indicate shift to C4 foods (maize) at ca. A.D. 1000 (adapted from Ambrose, 1987; reproduced with permission of author and Center for Archaeological Investigations and Board of Trustees, Southern Illinois University).
Katzenberg et al., 1995; Murray and Schoeninger, 1988; Schoeninger et al., 2000; White and Schwarcz, 1994; and many others). Collagen, the protein component of bone, requires essential amino acids for its formation. Thus isotope ratio analysis of collagen from archaeological bone, the most common form of isotope analysis, mostly reﬂects the protein component of diet. Paleodietary studies attempting to develop a reconstruction of the whole diet, including protein, carbohydrates, and fat, analyze the apatite, the mineral component of bone (Ambrose and Norr, 1993; Tieszen and Fagre, 1993). Stable isotope ratios of several other elements also have resulted in new and profound insight into a range of dietary and other issues in the human past, such as consumption of marine (and freshwater) foods (δ 15 N; Schoeninger and DeNiro, 1984; Schwarcz et al., 1985), dietary access in relation to status (δ 15 N; Schutkowski et al., 1998), infant feeding and weaning patterns (δ 15 N; Fogel et al., 1989, 1997; Herring et al., 1998; Katzenberg et al., 1996; Katzenberg and Pfeiffer, 1995; Schurr, 1997), residence, individual migration, and population movement (δ 87 Sr; Price et al., 1994a,b; Sealy et al., 1991; Sillen et al., 1998; δ 18 O; White et al., 1998, 2000), and climate reconstruction (δ 18 O; Fricke et al., 1995). Elemental analysis also is important for identifying patterns of diet and behavior, but in a much more restricted sense than was once thought. When elemental analysis ﬁrst began in the early 1970s, many accepted on face value that the wide range of elements identiﬁed in human bone samples from archaeological settings were valuable for reconstructing dietary patterns. However, problems of diagenesis (postdepositional modiﬁcation) ﬁrst identiﬁed by Lambert et al. (1979) have revealed that many of the initial assumptions about diet and speciﬁc elements are unfounded (see also Ezzo, 1994; Price et al., 1992; Sandford, 1993; Sandford and Weaver, 2000). Ezzo (1994, p. 608) has made a convincing case that strontium is “the only ﬁrmly established elemental model in bone-chemistry analysis.” In this regard, strontium resembles calcium structurally and therefore can substitute for calcium in various physiological roles. Importantly, strontium is distributed trophically in a predictable fashion owing to the fact that mammals, including humans, acquire strontium in quantities that are inverse to their trophic position (Sandford and Weaver, 2000). Herbivores have greater amounts of strontium in their bones than carnivores, and omnivorous humans are somewhere in between the two ends of the spectrum, although with a high degree of variation. Barium is also like calcium structurally, and so it too shows variation according to trophic level and is informative about food consumption and temporal shifts in diet. One important application of barium analysis is the identiﬁcation of marine and nonmarine diets as well as some aspects of terrestrial diets (Burton and Price, 1990a,b; Ezzo, 1992, 1993, 1994; Ezzo et al., 1995; Fabig et al., 2000).
Roberts and ı ı Manchester. There are a number of chronic infectious diseases that have been documented in the study of ancient remains from around the world. Analysis of carious lesion frequencies from a variety of archaeological settings shows a link between degree of carbohydrate consumption. As observed in living populations.Bioarchaeology 123 INFECTIOUS DISEASE AND HEALTH Humans and humanlike ancestors have been around for well over ﬁve million years. cavities resulting from caries continue to grow in size and are prone to infection that can spread to surrounding bone and soft tissues. but an enormous dental literature documents the close association between caries and carbohydrate consumption (see Larsen. plague) and newly emerging (ebola. Most of the life-threatening acute infections (e. treponematosis. in the preantibiotic world (and still today in many Third World settings). 2. Larsen et al. 1991). Streptococcus mutans). In addition to the “crowd diseases. and elevated caries frequencies (Larsen. 1997. 2001). 1997. and viruses—resulting in various disease states.g.. for other diseases see Aufderheide and Rodr´guez-Mart´n. in addition to just being able to document disease in the past. Bioarchaeologists and paleopathologists have studied various types of infections that result from disease. Generally speaking. old (e. Dental caries is not usually thought of as a life-threatening condition. The cause of dental caries is controversial. and leprosy (Fig. 1985.g. tuberculosis. However.. these diseases must have had a profound impact on the quality of life and ability to move about the landscape. The record is dominated by ﬁndings from North America .. and for that entire time populations were exposed to a wide range of infectious agents—bacteria. Population size and settlement pattern are key factors for interpreting the pattern and incidence of many infectious diseases. that are only partially crowd-dependent and that originated under special ecological circumstances. mad cow disease). Molecular evidence suggests that some of the current human viruses may be as old as the ﬁrst bipedal hominids (Van Blerkom.” there are a host of other infectious diseases. smallpox) are not well known from archaeological skeletons. especially domesticated plants. 1995). Some of the best evidence is from dental caries. The following is a brief synopsis of what bioarchaeologists and paleopathologists know about these examples of infectious disease.. primarily because the pathogenic agents that result in the disease kill the human host quickly. Thus. for review). their study offers a means of gathering a perspective on what living and lifestyle were about for ancient populations. Ortner and Putschar. the origin of infectious diseases present in the world today and in the recent human past can be traced to the time populations became large enough to sustain the pathogenic organisms that are responsible for their spread. 1998. fungi.g. Dental caries is a disease process involving the demineralization of enamel due to the production of acids that are produced as byproducts of the metabolism of carbohydrates by oral bacteria (e.
and leprosy had potentially more profound results for past humans. 1993. with permission of Cambridge University Press. b. 1997. 2000). leprosy. where maize was the primary plant carbohydrate. 2000. dental caries. The skeletal .. tuberculosis. treponematosis. c. with permission of Odense University Press). with permission from author and John Wiley & Sons.124 Larsen Fig. 2. Pathological indicators of speciﬁc infectious diseases: a. nonveneral (or endemic) syphilis. d. from Larsen. Inc. In Southeast Asia there is some evidence to suggest that there is a limited relationship between rice agriculture and caries (Oxenham. tuberculosis. yaws. Treponematosis. bioarchaeologists have documented elevated prevalence of treponematosis—a group of diseases that include venereal syphilis. from MøllerChristensen. c. and pinta (pinta is the only one of the four diseases that do not leave an obvious skeletal response). d. 1978. from Hutchinson. In the New World. Tayles et al. (b. For other areas of the globe— especially Africa and Asia—little is known about the link between degree of commitment to agriculture and caries.
The attendant deformities are highly diagnostic and have been especially well documented in conditions involving poor sanitation. leprosy appears to have been entirely Old World in origin. the origin of venereal syphilis may well have originated from a nonvenereal pathogen brought back to the Old World at the time of Columbus’s ﬁrst voyage. Roberts. 2000.. histological (microscopic) and radiological analysis of bone tissue are important tools for precise diagnosis involving anatomical change in response to disease . also has been well documented in eastern North America. ﬁngers. 1993). The pathogen may then have quickly evolved once reaching a different cultural setting where climate was cold and people wore more clothing (see overview in Baker and Armelagos. especially involving the vertebrae. However. poor nutrition. Tuberculosis. For example.g. 1998. Tuberculosis is clearly present in many settings of the New World and Old World prior to the beginning of European exploration of the Americas.g.. Leprosy was a devastating disease in the past. This scenario makes sense from a genetic perspective in that the DNA of the Treponema spirochete that causes venereal syphilis (T. and population crowding in medieval Europe (MøllerChristensen.. The disease appears to have become especially prevalent as prehistoric communities became larger and more sedentary (e. However. Unlike tuberculosis and treponematosis. pallidum pallidum) and that causes nonvenereal syphilis (T. Powell. but in the past leprosy was much more widespread. the ability to diagnose speciﬁc diseases from archaeological human remains has greatly improved in recent years. 1961. 1998). Today the disease is found in tropical and subtropical regions of Africa.. The infectious pathogen.Bioarchaeology 125 lesions that are characteristic of nonvenereal syphilis have been documented in especially high frequency in the American Southeast and Midwest. Unlike the other infectious diseases discussed above. extending to northern latitudes (e. resulting eventually in the atrophy of the midfacial region. Like treponematosis. a chronic acid-fast mycobacterial infection resulting in a distinctive pattern of bone tissue destruction. Thus some of the instances of tuberculosis reported by various researchers may be fungal infections. pallidum endemicum) differ by a few base pairs only (Centurion-Lara et al.. Diagnosis from archaeological human remains is not straightforward. and others).. affects the peripheral nervous system. 1988).. Guler et al. crowded communities where the infectious agent is more readily transmitted from person to person. Indeed. Fraser et al. fungal infections such as blastomycosis have similar symptoms as tuberculosis (Frean et al. 1993. Some authorities argue that treponematosis also was present outside of the Americas (e. but the vast body of cases that have been identiﬁed are from the Americas. and South America. tuberculosis appears to have increased in conjunction with populations living in close. Mycobacterium leprae. the disease has largely (although certainly not completely) disappeared. 1995). 1993.g. 1978). Hutchinson. 1992. Asia. Scandinavia). The present discussion does not mean to imply that diagnoses for these and other diseases are straightforward. and toes.
1994. reduced size (Dempsey et al. treponematosis. 3). Salo et al.. The cells responsible for the development of dental and skeletal tissues are easily disrupted if negative circumstances arise while the tissues are forming. Macroscopically. 2001).. Other nonspeciﬁc pathological conditions ranging from slight elevations of bone surfaces to expansion of bone shafts have been observed by paleopathologists from diverse settings worldwide. Kolman et al.126 Larsen (e. growth disruption is indicated by various attributes. the frequency of periosteal reactions increases in areas involving expansion in population size and increased sedentism. but the study of these lesions is not as comprehensively documented in the Old World as in the New World.. 1996. 2001. the burden of infectious disease increased. 1997). such as delayed development (Smith. That is. . Schultz et al. 1990). Microscopic structures known as pathological Retzius lines (or accentuated striae of Retzius or Wilson bands) provide a detailed record of short-term stress (1 to several days) (Rose.. but they also can be caused by a blow to the bone (Eyre-Brook.. Carli-Thiele. Like the speciﬁc infectious diseases. it is not possible to link these lesions—called periosteal reactions—to any known speciﬁc disease or cause.. 1999. 1994. elevated ﬂuctuating asymmetry (Kieser. An abundant bioarchaeological record for North America shows clear increases in frequency of periosteal reactions in a range of settings (reviewed in Larsen. Moreover. 2000). the sequencing of DNA in living bacteria and viruses is providing new insight into the antiquity of a range of diseases not visible from human remains directly (e. and presence of enamel defects. and leprosy (e. growth disruption can be identiﬁed both microscopically and macroscopically (Fig. In general. 1996). is a central issue in the study of health and well-being of past populations. This pattern of increase in frequency associated with population size and sedentism suggests that crowding had important and negative implications for quality of life. Stone. Stress. as lifestyle changed during the Holocene. 2001). Raﬁ et al. This pattern is likely also present in other areas of the world. The ability to extract and amplify the DNA of disease-causing organisms from ancient skeletons and other remains is beginning to conﬁrm (or reject) earlier hypotheses about speciﬁc disease origins and spread for tuberculosis. 1984). In teeth. 1977.g. Simpson.. Spigelman and Lemma. periosteal reactions are an inﬂammatory response that may result from bacterial infection. Van Blerkom. both microscopically and macroscopically (Goodman and Rose. 1999). 1991. The study of enamel defects has been especially productive in revealing the pattern and prevalence of stress in past populations.g. In most circumstances. 1991). 1993.. Mays et al. and it has potentially devastating results for individuals and the populations of which they are members.. PHYSIOLOGICAL STRESS: DISRUPTION OF GROWTH Physiological stress is pervasive in humans. or physiological disruption resulting from impoverished environmental circumstances.g.
. Typically. Inc. like the information from . from Schultz et al. d. 1988. Aside from dentition. accentuated striae of Retzius. hypoplasia represents long-term stress lasting from weeks to several months. (c. Owing to the highly regular periodicity of tooth development.. Macroscopically. Blakey et al. 2001). Pathological indicators of stress and physiological disruption: a. either most commonly by disease or malnutrition or some combination thereof (Goodman and Rose. 1994. Saunders and Keenleyside. 1999). from Larsen.. cribra orbitalia. In general. permission from University Press of Florida). 1990. 1990.Bioarchaeology 127 Fig. 1999. called hypoplasia. these deﬁciencies. 1991). Other factors relating to disease or malnutrition—especially infantile diarrhea—also are implicated (Simpson. but see caution in Reid and Dean. One common association is with the birth event. are grooves or lines marking the point at which enamel development was arrested. hypoplasia. porotic hyperostosis. Commonly. b. permission from Wiley-Liss. 1999. hypoplasia is found at the stage of dental development representing ages 1–4 years. 2001. These are abnormal areas of enamel that mark the position of disruption of cells (ameloblasts) that are responsible for enamel development.g. the discordance between observed age-of-stress and records available in historic-era populations indicates that other factors can be involved (e. Hutchinson and Larsen. it is possible to track with some precision at what point in life the stress episode occurred during the early life of the individual (e. the skeleton also provides valuable information about stress in the past.g. d. Although this pattern may be related to the stresses of weaning. 2000). defects are represented as deﬁciencies in amount or thickness of enamel. The stress indicators in the skeleton. resulting in a “neonatal line” on the teeth that are in the process of forming. Simpson. 1994. 3. 2001). c..
Similarly. Saunders and Hoppa. pelvic ﬂattening (Walker. Milner . Growth retardation and stress has been documented in the archaeological record from studies of various indicators of skeletal and dental disruption. reduced size of the neural canal of vertebrae (Clark et al. skeletal tissues remodel throughout the course of a person’s lifetime. places. 1968).. and other factors are based on skeletal samples from various settings in North America and Europe (Fiorato et al. mostly owing to population crowding (King and Ulijaszek.g. Unfortunately. 1993). For example. 1999. cribra orbitalia and porotic hyperostosis are largely representative of anemia that occurs during the early juvenile years (Stuart-Macadam. Nevertheless. and elevated frequency of skeletal changes (porotic hyperostosis. it also is important to consider factors from archaeological evidence and from modern population studies that inform our understanding of why a population has elevated stress.128 Larsen teeth. environment. In contemporary settings. including fortiﬁcations. weaponry. largely derives from changes taking place during the juvenile years when the bone tissue is forming. 2000. that the presence of stress indicators does not represent causation. and iconographic and symbolic representations that depict people. Archaeologists document violence (especially warfare) by various lines of evidence. 1986). Larsen. Steponaitis. sedentism appears to have resulted in increased stress in a range of settings. 1995).. bowing of weightbearing long bones from nutritional deﬁciencies (Roberts and Manchester. Important population-oriented studies that place violence in the larger context of society.. As with dental stress indicators. settlement pattern.. the combination of and interaction between poor nutrition and infection is the most common cause of physiological stress and poor health (King and Ulijaszek. It is important to emphasize. However. 1994. 1985. 1997.. unlike the dental indicators of stress where teeth do not remodel. defensible site locations. the elevated presence of these indicators in juveniles of a skeletal series are likely representative of elevated stress in the population as a whole. 1991. cribra orbitalia) often linked with iron deﬁciency anemia (Stuart-Macadam. these kinds of evidence identify the threat of conﬂict and not its outcome for the individuals involved. and many others). adult height (Lambert. and activities relating to conﬂict (e. 1997). 1968). 1992). lines of growth disruption at the ends of long bones known as Harris lines (Garn et al. For example. 1993). 1999). 1989). Areas that bioarchaeologists employ for documenting stress include reduced growth rates (Saunders. 2001). Harris lines are known to disappear and thus do not represent a precise record of stress in a person who is a mature adult (Garn et al. however. VIOLENCE AND TRAUMA All human populations experience some form of physical confrontation at some point in time. Lambert. Redmond. most of these skeletal indicators of disruption are nonspeciﬁc. Bioarchaeologists are well positioned to study the presence and pattern of injuries deriving from violence. 2000.
skulls of numerous adults display indentations called depressed fractures (Fig. That is.). Turner and Turner. Inc. 4). various workers have documented the presence of facial trauma where the person had been struck in the mouth. reduced resources. 4. tree-ring and other climatological data indicate a period of environmental instability and decreased resource productivity (Lambert. 1997). in press. knocking out anterior teeth and fracturing the adjacent bone (e. see reviews in Lambert. The apparent increase in frequency of homicide coincides with a deterioration of climate involving less rainfall. This resource stress hypothesis is consistent with the ﬁnding that various stress indicators (e. 1999). 1999). with permission from John Wiley & Sons. 1990. 580. see also various authors in Eisenberg and Hutchinson. involving fewer resources and increased competition. 1996. In this setting. One especially compelling study of human remains from the Paciﬁc coast of southern California shows a likely inﬂuence of environmental circumstances on behavior over a span of 7500 years.. This suggests that the context for violence may have been environmental.D. 1989. Martin and Frayer. 1991. Milner.g. Cranial depression fracture (from Walker. Clearly... most of the injuries are healed. increased stress. and increase in population size and sedentism. strongly suggesting that homicide was not the intention of the aggressor. Billman et al. Prior to A. these individuals with facial trauma had been the victims of violence. et al. 1997. These fractures are caused by a blow to the head. Another setting where individuals display traumatic injury relating to violence is the American Southwest. . From the Four Corners region.Bioarchaeology 129 Fig.g.. 2000. usually with a club. lethal projectile wounds are more common. After that date. hypoplasia) increased during the same time that deadly violence intensiﬁed. Willey.
1999. skeletal injuries are associated with a range of other perimortem bone alterations indicating that the bodies had been processed for food (Billman et al. The exact evidence for food processing varies from location to location in the region generally. Critics argue that Fig. b. 2000. and American Antiquity). 1992). 2000. White. and charring and blackening (from cooking over open ﬁres) (Fig. cut marks and bone breakage.. burning (a. and c.. 2000. Bone modiﬁcations consistent with cannibalism: a.. c.130 Larsen In the Southwest. 5). Turner and Turner. 5. cut marks. b. but the skeletons commonly display extensive diaphyseal fracture (for marrow extraction). from Billman et al.. with permission from John Wiley & Sons. from Lambert et al. Ltd. cut marks at tendon and ligament attachment sites (for removal of ﬂesh). .
g.. microscopic damage yields much more detailed information (Fig. 1991). 2000). In the American Southwest. 2000. during the time of the abandonment of the site (mid-12th century A. the region experienced a severe drought or succession of droughts.Bioarchaeology 131 these processing patterns—no matter how similar to processing patterns observed in animal remains—do not by themselves indicate actual ingestion of human ﬂesh (e. ACCESSING BEHAVIOR: MASTICATORY FUNCTION AND TOOTH USE Humans use their jaws and teeth for an incredible range of purposes. farmers in general show less severe tooth wear than do foragers.. butchered. a range of experimental analyses shows that teeth of animals and humans who eat soft or nonabrasive foods have fewer microwear features (scratches and pits) than animals and humans who eat hard or abrasive foods (Teaford. very few (nonhuman) food remains were found.. and less intensive farming results in less tooth wear than more intensive farming does (review in Larsen. This behavior appears to have stopped as suddenly as it began. At the Cowboy Wash site in southwestern Colorado where seven individuals had been processed in a manner consistent with deﬂeshing and cooking for consumption. 6) (Teaford. presence of human myoglobin in a human coprolite deposited at about the time the human remains had been cooked can only mean one thing: feces had been deposited by someone who had consumed human ﬂesh (Billman et al. 2000). Various explanations have been offered to explain why cannibalism occurred in this and other archaeological settings. Billman et al. Dongoske et al.). cooked. (2000) argue that it was during a period of resource stress that the people living at Cowboy Wash had been attacked by (hungry) intruders.D. when the region in general was reoccupied in the 13th century following its initial abandonment. Moreove. but also for a range of extramasticatory (tool use) functions (Milner and Larsen. Interestingly. resulting in a reduction in food. mostly for food processing. suggesting scarcity of dietary resources. cannibalism did not resume—there is no bioarchaeological evidence of processing of human remains. These differences are due . Macroscopically visible wear has long been a key tool for identifying patterns and severity of wear that can be used to draw inferences about diet and tooth use. Lambert et al... 2000). 1991).. For example. Billman et al. 1991.g. 1996). unlike farmers who display distinctive cupped wear on the occlusal surfaces of their molars. At Cowboy Wash. then killed. cannibalism may have been due to severe resource stress—people ate other people because they needed the food (e. 1995). Moreover. and eaten. Teaford and Lytle.. The resulting patterns of wear and other damage is highly informative about the uses of teeth in day-to-day living. 2000. Marlar et al. Smith (1984) showed that foragers from a range of settings worldwide tend to wear their teeth ﬂat. Using scanning electron microscopy. Although wear on teeth is important for identifying tooth use patterns.
1991. . Microwear showing contrasts between pitted surface (top) and smooth surface (bottom) on maxillary molars reﬂecting hard-textured (foraging) and soft-textured (maize farming) diets (from Teaford. 6. with permission from Wiley-Liss. Inc.132 Larsen Fig.).
. Rose et al.000 to 7. with the introduction and widespread use of ceramic vessels for cooking. The indicators include degenerative pathology relating to mechanical loading of articular joints (osteoarthritis).Bioarchaeology 133 to the properties of the food itself (e.. Braidwood (1967. the microwear declines (Molleson et al.” Ethnographic evidence indicates tremendous variation in activity levels and patterns in hunter–gatherers and other human groups (Kelly.g. such as from walking (a behavior affecting the joints of the . 2001). 1991).. the transition from foraging to farming has been documented through study of plant and animal remains (see Molleson et al. following animals just to kill them to eat. Teaford. Degenerative Pathology of the Articular Joints The articular surfaces of the joints of the skeleton are well adapted to mechanical loading. stone grinding of grains). Schmidt. . Similar patterns of reduction in microwear have been documented in South Asia (Pastor.. Other settings show changes in different types of microwear.. is a deﬁning characteristic of human beings. For example. 1992) and in eastern North America (e. Bullington. hunter–gatherers are often described as highly mobile and physically active. 2001. In his inﬂuential archaeology textbook.000 years.g. Molleson and Jones. 1993. Teaford et al. reﬂecting a shift from eating less-coarse nondomesticated grains by the preceding Mesolithic groups to eating coarse grains by early Neolithic farmers. .. whereas farmers are described as sedentary and inactive. 1991. 2001). 1993). 1991. microwear reveals subtle shifts in diet and tooth use. Regardless of the change. in northern Syria. and muscle attachment site morphology (enthesiopathies).000 B. or moving from one berry patch to another (and) living just like an animal. The study of archaeological skeletons facilitates in some important ways the reconstruction and interpretation of lifestyle by several important indicators. Teaford et al. such as comparison of pits and scratches (e. Molleson and Jones (1991) have documented an increase in microwear features on teeth in the early Neolithic.. In a series of archaeological sites dating from 12. silica content) and by extraneous substances introduced by different types of processing (e. 113) described hunter–gatherers as leading “a savage’s existence. One of the important problems that has been addressed by microwear analysis is the shift from foraging to farming over the last 10.g. and a very tough one . In this setting. the precise timing of the transition has been debated. 1991. 1995). biomechanics and structure of long bones (cross-sectional geometric analysis)... however. In the later Neolithic. or physical activity. However. ACCESSING BEHAVIOR: LIFESTYLE RECONSTRUCTION AND INTERPRETATION Lifestyle. p.P.g.
1992. Osteoarthritis has been documented in many hundreds of skeletons worldwide. 7. 1892). there is a tendency in some regions for more osteoarthritis in skeletons of hunter–gatherers than in farmers. 1987. eburnation (polishing) on distal humerus (b. Structural Adaptation Bone tissue remodels itself in response to mechanical stimulation (Wolff. However. These skeletal changes are symptomatic of osteoarthritis (also called degenerative joint disease). from Larsen. Over the course of a person’s lifetime. bone tissue is added to strengthen the bone. and back). 7). and feet) or lifting (a behavior affecting the joints of the shoulders. knees. Bridges. the joints begin to display skeletal changes. In areas of the skeleton that are subjected to high levels of mechanical loading. Larsen. suggesting that osteoarthritis is linked to localized circumstances involving a complex interplay between lifestyle. elbows. hips.134 Larsen Fig. the cartilage covering the surfaces of the articular joints begins to erode as a result of use of the joints. marginal lipping on lumbar vertebrae. with permission from Academic Press. Inc. Higher prevalence of osteoarthritis in males than in females is nearly universal. and speciﬁc patterns have been identiﬁed that are suggestive of activity (e. and environment (see Bridges. such as the breadth and circumference of bone shafts . Osteoarthritis: a. Depending on the degree of use (or overuse). 1992). For example. 1997). suggesting that workload and mobility—at least as it affects the articular joints—is greater in men than in women in past societies. b. culture.g. hands.. there is a high degree of variation in incidence and severity. including spicules of bone along the margins of the joints and erosion of the joint surface (Fig. By measuring the external dimensions of long bones.).
Bioarchaeology 135 of the leg (e. 2000). In contrast. For torsional strength.. it is possible to infer levels of physical activity. Civil and mechanical engineers routinely measure the strength of materials used in the construction of buildings. femur) and arm (e. the stronger the section and the greater its ability to withstand breakage or collapse when subjected to loading. Comparisons of second moments of area between earlier and later hominids reveals that bone strength has declined dramatically in the last several million years. which states the simple notion that when viewed in cross-section. humans became increasingly sedentary. I values are calculated as products of very small unit areas in the bone cross-section (such as the midshaft of the femur) and squared distances from the central axis. The images from which the analysis is performed are derived by cutting the bone and photographing the cross-sections or by computed tomographic (CT) scanning. which measure the distribution of bone in the same section. This trend is consistent with the notion that with agriculture. 2000). humerus). continuing to the present (Ruff et al. 1987). This is an imprecise way of measuring bone strength (although see Pearson. which are best adapted to bending and torsional (twisting) forces. such as I x and I y . the further the material is placed away from a central axis. revealing several patterns of lifestyle in the history of our species. 1995. Ruff. Using a series of cross-sectional geometric properties developed by engineers for measuring strength of a structure.. and second moments of area. For example. bone strength (J) for females show little or no . To more precisely document bone strength. but for males only. 2000. 1999. values are called I with a subscript referring to the speciﬁc axis running through the cross-section (Fig. In recent populations. it is possible to measure the strength of a bone and to infer its ability to resist bending and torsion. Calculations of section properties are then done via computer software designed by engineers and adapted for archaeological skeletons (Ruff. These properties are represented as values called areas. 2001) have shown that bone strength (J ) was generally higher in North American foragers than in farmers. 8). which measure amount of bone in a cross-section. Simply. physical anthropologists have applied engineering theory to the study of skeletal morphology (see Ruff. 2000) and does not allow the analysis of distribution of bone. larger (more robust) long bones indicate greater strength and physical activity than smaller (less robust) long bones.. and I y refers to the y axis and denotes the side-toside bending strength in relation to that plane. which is the most meaningful attribute of bone strength for inferring lifestyle. Ruff and Larsen.g. Ruff and coworkers (Larsen et al. For bending strength.g. values are called J and refer to the sum of two I values perpendicular to each other. resulting in a reduction in loading of the femur (Ruff. They base their assessments of material strength on beam theory.. Biomechanical analysis has been applied to a range of human populations. 1993). Ix refers to the x axis and denotes bone strength in the front-to-back bending plane. perpendicular to the x plane. Long bones can be modeled as hollow tubes.
whereas females living in areas of ﬂat terrain have the lowest bone strength. Rather. 1998). The top of the cross-section is anterior and the bottom of the cross-section is posterior. I x is anterior–posterior bending and I y is medial–lateral bending in the midshaft of the femur. decrease in bone strength (Bridges. For example.136 Larsen Fig. it is essential that local circumstances involving adaptive shifts be considered. . Ruff and Larsen. local factors also play an important role in determining bone strength. relationship to subsistence strategy.. Although general tendencies in bone strength are clear. the shift from foraging to farming in the Eastern Woodlands of North America involved highly variable responses in bone strength. while there are some important tendencies of skeletal adaptation that allow us to infer patterns of activity and mobility. Females from mountainous settings have the highest bone strength. 1989). including increase (Ruff et al. 1984. torsional loading corresponds more closely with degree of ruggedness of terrain than subsistence technology. Schematic illustration showing cross-sectional geometric properties I x and I y . 2001). 8. Thus. and no change at all (Barondess.
analysis of size and morphology of enthesiopathies on upper and lower limb bones from prehistoric Khoisan from South Africa by Churchill and Morris (1998) revealed that forest-dwelling males were more active than savanna-dwelling males.. 2000. for review). the more developed (and more highly used) the muscle or group of muscles represented. principal components.. Enthesiopathies represent the skeletal response to muscle activity—the larger the scar. The approach is based on the wellfounded assumption that populations sharing attributes are more closely related than populations not sharing the same attributes. Biodistance analysis identiﬁes statistical patterns of variation within and between groups by simultaneous consideration of multiple traits via various multivariate techniques (e. discriminant function. Biological distance or “biodistance” is the measurement of relatedness or divergence between populations or subgroups within populations based on the analysis of polygenic skeletal and dental traits (Buikstra et al. suggesting that activities associated with the food quest were more demanding in forest settings. however. 1990). 2001). Two classes of data are used in biodistance analysis: metric and nonmetric. 1998. Metric traits are continuous linear measurements or indices.Bioarchaeology 137 Muscle Attachment Scars A number of key studies have demonstrated the importance of muscle scars called enthesiopathies located at speciﬁc muscle attachment sites for inferring activity and behavioral adaptation (see Churchill and Morris. and nonmetric (or discrete) traits are discontinuous or quasi-continuous traits that are either present or absent . For example. Mayhall.g. especially since this morphology is at least in part genetically determined. Relatedness between human groups has long been an important area of interest in anthropology. 1997). suggesting that the work demand—at least those tasks that are gender-based—was equal across the ecological spectrum for women. In females. Conﬁrmation of the role of bone and muscle insertion has been recently investigated using experimental behavior in laboratory sheep (Zumwalt et al. The study revealed that moderate exercise plays little or no role on development of muscle insertion sites.. Scott and Turner. this ﬁnding suggests that the extreme forms of insertion site remodeling seen in numerous archaeological skeletons indicate very heavy demands taking place throughout the lifetime of the individual. POPULATION HISTORY AND BIOLOGICAL RELATEDNESS Anatomical Indictors of Relatedness Form and structure of bones and teeth contain key information about the history of a population and its relationship to other populations. Although speculative. they found no differences in enthesiopathy morphology between the two regions.
but now appear to have been caused by the shift from eating hard. Turner and his associates developed a list of more than 30 traits that identify population relationships (Scott and Turner. whereas others in the burial sample may have originated from outside the Tipu community (Jacobi. distinctive from individuals buried later in time. dental traits are under relatively strong genetic control. the cranial vaults of Paleoindians tend to be longer and narrower and their faces tend to be shorter . 1997. Scott (1994) has found a strong similarity between pre-Koniag (1500 B.. Some of the most compelling biodistance research is based on discrete dental traits. Thus dental traits offer an important source of information on biological relatedness. As indicated in the study of living populations (e. That is. is a highly fruitful setting for identifying ancestral groups of living populations. in large part because of the presence of a highly visible and vital native population in this region of North America. Pietrusewsky. For example.C. 2000. for example. The origins and evolution of native populations in the Americas has been a point of discussion by scholars for centuries (see Powell and Neves. 1997. Turner et al. a trait used to link Native Americans to a common Asian ancestor. 1991). 1999. 1100–1763).. One limitation of linear dimensions in identifying ancestral–descendant relationships is the role of skeletal plasticity. The earlier component may represent traditional Maya. shovel-shaped incisors.D. 1997). For example. 9). Larsen.to soft-textured foods. Alaska. is either not present or present in one of seven ordinal grades that range from slight to pronounced (Scott and Turner.g. Building on the pioneering work of Albert Dahlberg (1956). Biodistance also has important potential for identifying the possible descendants of skeletons from archaeological settings. Mayhall. 1996.138 Larsen or present in various grades of expression. 1980). Cranial metric traits also provide important information on potential population relationships (see Hillson.D. Harris and Bailit. Statistical analysis of cranial measurements of early Holocene remains from North America reveals that the braincase of Paleoindians is shaped differently from recent American Indians (Fig. 1997. The robust nature of dentally based biodistance analysis is illustrated in Jacobi’s study of Contact-era Maya Indians from the Tipu mission in Belize (Jacobi. The traits are documented in published form as well as in a series of plaques available from the Dental Anthropology Laboratory at Arizona State University. Multivariate and univariate statistical treatment of dental traits revealed groupings of people buried in the cemetery. 2000). An excellent case in point is the aforementioned craniofacial changes in ancient Nubia that were once thought to have been due to diffusion and population replacement. 1993). 2000. 1100) and Koniag (A.. This pattern indicates that people who were buried ﬁrst in the church shared a common genetic heritage. suggesting the presence of long-term population continuity for these groups (and see below). Scott and Turner. Jacobi found a low percentage of labial (lip side of tooth) curvature of maxillary incisors in the individuals buried in the inside front (nave) of the church but not elsewhere.–A. Steele and Powell. and their evolution is highly conservative. 2000). 1991). Turner et al.
9. with permission from John Wiley & Sons. . conﬁrming the Paleoindian ties to northern Asia. 2000. mesocranic. Powell and Neves. 1993. Overall. and narrow crania (dolichocranic) groupings (from Steele and Powell. but the distinctiveness from modern native populations is not fully understood. Bivariate plot of mean cranial breadth versus mean cranial length for adult males and females in modern and prehistoric populations. The lines separate broad crania (brachycranic). Inc. craniofacial morphology of Paleoindians is similar to generalized Asians. These cranial differences between the earlier Paleoindians and modern populations indicate that they were either not ancestral to living groups or the differences reﬂect craniofacial changes that have occurred over the course of the Holocene. 1999). This is an important area that requires further study.).Bioarchaeology 139 Fig. and narrower than those of recent Indians (Chatters.
1993). 2000).b. The initial excitement about ancient DNA is now somewhat tempered by the realization that many skeletons do not preserve DNA that is useful for analysis (e. 2000. B.. relationships of individuals within an ancient population. Stone. O’Rourke et al. 1990. 1996... In the American Great Basin of the . Beginning a¨ with P¨ abo’s successful extraction of DNA from an Egyptian mummy (P¨ abo. 2000). Kumar et al. 2000b). 2000). 1989. 1999. and D (Kaestle et al. most of the DNA that has been extracted and ampliﬁed is mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) deriving from mitochondria. 1994. The haplogroup frequencies are highly structured in both the living and ancient populations studied.. 2000a. called haplogroups A. population migrations and origins. 2000a. More than 90% of all Native Americans are from one of these four haplogroups.140 Larsen Ancient DNA: Tracing Ancestry The study of DNA from archaeological remains offers a new and potentially powerful means of addressing many of the issues previously under the purview of biodistance analysis of skeletal and dental morphology alone. Analysis of mtDNA from ancient Australian skeletal remains suggests that information on relatedness and long-term tracing of evolutionary relationships may present different results than would nuclear DNA (Adcock et al. Importantly. The study of DNA in living and extinct populations engenders new perspectives on population origins in the Americas that supplements the biodistance analyses of skeletons. Schurr et al. a¨ a¨ 1985) and the development of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for amplifying DNA fragments. This new frontier in biodistance analysis has strong potential to address this and other issues in anthropology relating to spatial and temporal associations between and within populations (O’Rourke et al. P¨ abo. Within speciﬁc settings. structures located outside the nucleus of the cell... 2001). such as contamination in and authentication of DNA (Handt et al. it has become possible to access the human genome in ancient populations for a variety of purposes. Torroni et al. 2000). Kolman and Tuross. some interesting results have emerged that contribute to an understanding of population history... versus DNA from the nucleus. The stability indicated by the genetic studies suggests that the craniofacial differences between Paleoindians and modern groups (see above) may be due to change over time in morphology.. Molecular bioarchaeologists are still grappling with some fundamental problems. Moreover. 1995).. the geographic distribution of the four lineages suggests few (perhaps only one) migration of a founding population from Asia to the New World (Merriwether et al. C. Stone. and long-term phylogenetic relationships (see Stone. and the ancient samples studied thus far are most similar in their haplogroup frequencies to the modern groups inhabiting various regions in the Americas today (O’Rourke et al. including sex identiﬁcation. Studies of living Native Americans show that speciﬁc mutations of mtDNA identify at least four founding lineages.. These analyses suggest that there has been a remarkable stability for at least 2000 years and possibly much longer.g.
Kaestle et al. a great deal of variation in the accuracy of different age estimation methods. 2000). Meindl and Russell. there has been a long-standing debate about the origins of the native groups that currently inhabit the region. There still exists. indicate that the living groups most likely represent an admixture of Numic and pre-Numic populations rather than a replacement of the latter by the former. Bocquet-Appel and Masset (1982) argued that age estimation of adult skeletons from archaeological contexts was so problematic that it was highly questionable whether or not paleodemographic analysis was even feasible (see also discussions by Jackes. Milner et al. Kaestle and Smith. facilitating the reconstruction of demographic proﬁles in past populations (see Meindl and Russell.. 1999). Meindl and Russell. 1995. The similarity in haplogroup frequencies between ancient and modern populations from the other side of the Great Basin in the Great Salt Lake wetlands in Utah points to an ancestral–descendant relationship between the archaeological and living populations (O’Rourke et al. Kaestle. is much more problematic. however.. Analysis of mtDNA in living and ancient populations from the far-western Great Basin (Stillwater) by Kaestle and coworkers (Kaestle.. 1994. 1985. These ﬁndings. the meaning of the demographic proﬁles is still open to question. Buikstra and Ubelaker. On the basis of their analyses of languages in the Great Basin. via DNA analysis are beginning to open up the possibility of sex identiﬁcation (e.. 1999. PALEODEMOGRAPHY: SEX AND AGE STRUCTURE OF PAST GROUPS Physical anthropologists have developed an extensive repertoire of methods for estimating age-at-death and identifying sex of skeletons (see Buikstra and Mielke. 1998. Stone. Age-at-death estimation. 2000. 2000). Jackes. but new avenues for identifying the presence of the sex chromosomes. do these mortality samples (almost always) drawn from different times and assembled into one archaeological collection represent the . 1998). Native populations in the Great Basin today are Numic speakers. 1995.g. Even in a perfect world where the age estimates for all individuals within a skeletal series are accurate. along with characteristics of serum albumins extracted from the archaeological skeletons and living populations. and this is one area that is being addressed (see Jackes. 1998. Simply. White. Faerman et al. however. Identiﬁcation of sex based on morphological attributes of adolescent and adult skeletons has a high degree of accuracy.Bioarchaeology 141 Desert West. 1995. 2000). 2001) indicates a high frequency of haplogroup D and lack of haplogroup C in the ancient groups. 2000). 2000. XX and XY. Age estimation methods have improved in recent years.. Steward (1940) and Lamb (1958) suggested that the present populations derived originally from a Numic homeland located in the southwestern Great Basin (California) about 1000 years ago. Methods for identiﬁcation of sex of juvenile skeletons are imprecise.
Thus the record suggests that we cannot learn much about mortality from death assemblages. 1989. Wood et al.142 Larsen actual mortality experience of a population? Intuitively. well-being. This is because a population that is growing because of high birth rates will display a younger age proﬁle in a skeletal assemblage than a population that is declining because of low birth rates. especially in the absence of immigration. 2000) argue that sampling bias due to various taphonomic. a population with a low average age-at-death more likely represents the presence of relatively high fertility and growth rather than low life expectancy. the high frequency of lesions can mean either that the living population was in poor health or the population enjoyed relatively good health because individuals survived the illnesses long enough for the lesions to develop. (1992) remind us that the analysis of a collection of archaeological skeletons is neither easy nor straightforward. cultural. THE BIG PICTURE: DEVELOPING A HISTORY OF THE HUMAN CONDITION All archaeologists are well aware of the complexity of the processes—social.. One solution to the “osteological paradox” is to consider multiple indicators of health in collections of skeletons in order to identify consistent patterns of health (and see Goodman. Indeed. not allowing enough time for the appearance of the lesions. In other words. I would argue that health. but potentially a lot about fertility from skeletal assemblages. then. . (1992. On the other hand. Indeed. economic. cultural. How. However. 1986. When inconsistencies between health indicators are identiﬁed in a skeletal series. 1983). Rather. evidence derived from the study of age-at-death structure in both archaeological and contemporary samples strongly suggests that mortality samples from ancient cemeteries are representative of fertility and birthrates of a population and not mortality and death rates (Buikstra et al. archaeological mortality samples—a collection of dead people—do represent mortality proﬁles. Milner et al.. Johansson and Horowitz. Wood et al. They note that simply because a skeletal series displays a high frequency of lesions does not necessarily mean that the population had especially poor health. see also Milner et al. no other discipline provides the essential understanding of the past in interpreting the present. and the human condition in general also should be included in this set of factors for interpreting how humans got to where they are today. and methodological factors presents a potential problem for interpretation of health proﬁles in past populations. 1986. in press. various issues need to be considered when drawing conclusions about health. McCaa. Sattenspiel and Harpending.. and political—that gave rise to societies and cultures in the past and present day worlds. a skeletal series showing few or no lesions could mean that either the population was quite healthy or the members of the population were dying quickly. problems associated with sampling bias may be indicated. 1993).
and others that coded skeletal health indicators (e..and postagricultural populations. Steckel and Rose (in press) addressed the issue of comparability in a large study of the history of health in the Western Hemisphere.000 years has not gone unchallenged.500 skeletons.Bioarchaeology 143 has human health and well-being changed over time? What are the causes of these changes. cribra orbitalia. industrialization. A large body of bioarchaeological data has been generated over the last 20 or so years that suggests that health did change over this time frame. 1984. periosteal reactions. beginning with the shift from a lifeway based exclusively on hunting and gathering to one that incorporated plant and animal domesticates (Cohen. Paleopathology at the Origins of Agriculture. 1989. cultural. see Larsen. and Euroamericans. cribra orbitalia. reﬂecting the diversity of subsistence practices and environmental circumstances. (2000) point out.” The collection of studies challenged this perspective. 1995. Indeed.g. reduced adult height). it is simplistic (and often incorrect) to think of foragers and farmers in typological terms. enamel defects. Large-scale comparative analyses of spatial and temporal variation using skeletal evidence began with the compendium of studies presented in a volume edited by Mark Cohen and George Armelagos (1984). and globalization over this time period. for review). forming the foundation of complex social organization. The skeletons date from about 4000 B. The interpretation that health declined over the last 10. to the early 20th century and include Native Americans. trauma. and all things “civilized. Cohen and Armelagos. It is important to point out.g. periosteal reactions) and combined the individual data set into a large sample numbering some 12. In general. literature.. African Americans. economic historians. The transition has long been considered a major advance for human societies. it should be expected that health and wellbeing changed in discernible ways. the range of questions addressed exceeds the more limited issue of the transition from foraging to farming. Given the major changes in diet (from foraging to farming). that these changes are not universal. and increasing social complexity. settlement (increasing sedentism in both foragers and farmers). The pigeonholing of collections of skeletons in one or the other category masks the variation in the human experience—biological. topography. as Milner et al. One obvious criticism is that the contributors did not use a uniform coding scheme thereby leading to incomparability of results. however. and so forth? The diversity of health and well-being has likely been enormous over the history of our species. socioeconomic conditions. Given the ancestral diversity of the data set. The study involved the collaboration of a group of bioarchaeologists. porotic hyperostosis.C. or social. Contributors to the book assembled skeletal evidence from a range of settings in the world comparing pre. art. populations that made this transition show an increase in pathological conditions that reﬂect deteriorating health (e. ﬁnding that health appears to have declined with the transition from foraging to farming. especially in relation to key environmental factors such as diet. . climate.
Use of diverse sources of information also applies to the study of the skeletons themselves and other lines of biological information. Index values suggest. For example. Historical sources. in press). skeletal remains are the only source of information for documenting these types of interactions. a reduction in health that coincided with the adoption of agriculture and increased sedentism. “free” individuals had relatively high childhood health. Nevertheless. which lends support for the earlier pattern articulated by researchers. For example. The health index was then used to rank populations according to health status. there are limitations to the Western Hemisphere project. health appears to have actually improved during the contact era (at least relative to the prehistoric period). By using a diversity of resources for addressing the past. for example. equestrian nomads from the Great Plains show a very high health index in the Contact period. For some groups. CONCLUSIONS: WHERE WE’VE BEEN AND SOME FUTURE DIRECTIONS Much of the record of the human past is reconstructed and interpreted from archaeological and historical records. but “enslaved” individuals had low childhood health. age-adjusted health index for assessing geographic and temporal variation. Notably. based on his interpretation of mtDNA evidence. Cavalli-Sforza (2000) argued that populations living in the Tarim Basin of western China (Xinjiang Province) had a European origin. which may reﬂect improvements in their ability to acquire dietary resources following the adoption of the horse. He noted that the mummies . often reveal much more about the value systems of the historian rather than the reality of the subject being investigated. As also shown in historical sources. Steckel and Rose (in press) developed a multiattribute. severity-graded. such as representativeness of samples and variation in age estimation techniques used by different researchers. For the period prior to writing. Skeletal remains provide an important resource for understanding the interaction between humans and their environment and the history of our species. The skeletal record of the past has a different set of issues that cloud interpretation. for example. the study revealed some important trends and patterns of variation. Analysis of the index revealed a downward turn of health continued in some regions of the Americas but not in others following the arrival of Europeans in the late 15th century. the contrast between the two groups of African Americans reﬂects the differences in living circumstances (Steckel and Rose.144 Larsen In addition to examining frequency patterns of speciﬁc indicators of health. Walker (2000) makes the important point that archaeological and historical sources of information about the past—like skeletal data—are susceptible to interpretive error. we are better equipped to eliminate explanations about past events. African Americans show an interesting pattern of health variation along socioeconomic lines. As with any skeletal assemblage.
g. South Asia (e. Arcini. 1985. and . disease) have been generated and studied elsewhere. Lukacs and Hemphill.. In this regard. 1994.g... 1999). Larsen and Milner.g.g. however. 1991. but nowhere is the growth as explosive as in North America. Morris. Walimbe and Gambhir. The direct nature of skeletal remains makes possible a range of investigations that are not accessible from other lines of evidence. Rankin-Hill. Lynnerup. the jump from sex identiﬁcation to social identity and behavioral inference is not a big one. These subjects have received signiﬁcant attention by archaeologists beginning with the publication of Conkey and Spector’s study (Conkey and Spector. When coupled with historical information. 1987). 2000. 1986). Smith et al. 2000). 1992. Human remains offer an important window into gender. South Africa (e. 1984. whereas the later groups show afﬁnity to populations of the Oxus River valley in south-central Asia.. Rather. lifestyle.. Larsen. ı eastern Europe (Jankauskas. various authors in Baker and Kealhofer. Rathbun. Australia (e. Southeast Asia (e.. North Africa (e.Bioarchaeology 145 found there lacked the so-called “Mongoloid” cranial features that distinguish them from surrounding Asian groups. Human remains encapsulate a picture of health and well-being. the Middle East (e. Indeed. various authors in Blakely and Harrington. 1999. gender attribution and social inequality are largely inaccessible in archaeological contexts. Pfeiffer and Williamson. 1997. 1992) and the interaction between environment and health in various settings for Euroamericans and African Americans (e. his analysis reveals a biological afﬁnity with the Indus Valley population of northern India for the earlier groups. provides compelling evidence that the ancestry of the Tarim Basin groups was non-European (Hemphill. Jankauskas and Kozlovskaya. Kaifu. for example. 2000). 1999). 1988. Bioarchaeological data sets dealing with general or speciﬁc topics (e. skeletons provide a fund of data for addressing other events in the past. 1997.. it is often assumed by anthropologists and nonanthropologists alike that although theoretically interesting.. 1996. Tayles et al. Grauer. 1990. Hanihara. Kennedy. 2000. 1984).. Calcagno. 1984. Larsen.g. all that make us a biological organism (see various authors in Grauer and Stuart-Macadam. 1998. For example. 1994). 1994. Hemphill’s biodistance analysis of cranial metrics. skeletons dating to the postColumbian period of North America offer important perspective on issues such as the impact of European contact and missionization on native populations (e. largely owing to the fact that sex (a biological attribute) of an individual is nearly always revealing about their gender (a social attribute). 1996. 1995.. 1991.g. 1995). 1984).g.g. Bennike. Carli-Thiele. and behavior. 1989). 1994. in western Europe (e. Armelagos et al.g. Bioarchaeology is currently experiencing growth in a number of regions of the globe.. East Asia (e. 2000). Palf´ et al. Skeletons—the physical remains of the people themselves—are the most direct evidence of the biology of past populations. 1994. and Blakey et al. 2001. 1998). Verano and Ubelaker... as well as a means of linking gender and the various components. Oxenham. Pietrusewsky. Sealy.g.g... Webb..
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