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The Bioarchaeology of Individuals

Ann L.W. Stodder

Publication Year: 2012

From Bronze Age Thailand to Viking Iceland, from an Egyptian oasis to a family farm in Canada, The Bioarchaeology of Individuals invites readers to unearth the daily lives of people throughout history. Covering a span of more than four thousand years of human history and focusing on individuals who lived between 3200 BC and the nineteenth century, the essays in this book examine the lives of nomads, warriors, artisans, farmers, and healers.

The contributors employ a wide range of tools, including traditional macroscopic skeletal analysis, bone chemistry, ancient DNA, grave contexts, and local legends, sagas, and other historical information. The collection as a whole presents a series of osteobiographies--profiles of the lives of specific individuals whose remains were excavated from archaeological sites. The result offers a more "personal" approach to mortuary archaeology; this is a book about people--not just bones.

Published by: University Press of Florida

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Table of Contents

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List of Figures

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pp. vii-ix

List of Tables

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pp. xi

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pp. xiii-xiv

The record of the history of the human condition is provided by a range of sources. This book series focuses on the remarkable fund of data recovered from the contextualized study of ancient human remains. Previous books in the series highlight key trends and circumstances, ranging from global patterns of...

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1. Osteobiography and Bioarchaeology

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pp. 1-8

This book is a compilation of osteobiographies—interpretations of the lives of people whose remains were excavated from archaeological sites. The foundation of each chapter is the study of an individual beginning with the skeleton and then expanding the analytical and interpretive scale from the grave...

Part 1. Ancestors and Descendants

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2. The Magician: An Ancestral Hopi Leader

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pp. 11-25

A burial from the site of Ridge Ruin in northern Arizona is renowned among archaeologists who work in the U.S. Southwest. When excavated in 1939, the grave was found to be one of the richest ever documented in the region. Because the mortuary offerings included ritual artifacts similar to those used by the...

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3. The Axed Man of Mosfell: Skeletal Evidence of a Viking Age Homicide, the Icelandic Sagas, and Feud

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pp. 26-43

The discovery of the skeletal remains of the person described in this chapter is one of many scientific results of the Mosfell Archaeological Project, an ongoing international research effort we began in 1995. The project’s goal is to produce a comprehensive reconstruction of human adaptation and environmental change...

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4. Legendary Chamorro Strength: Skeletal Embodiment and the Boundaries of Interpretation

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pp. 44-67

This chapter focuses on a protohistoric Chamorro (Chamoru) man referred to as Taotao Tagga’ (a man of Tagga’, Tinian), situating him within his culture, society, and historical period. Chamorros are the indigenous people of the Mariana Islands, an archipelago in the western Pacific that consists of two...

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5. Mortuary Evidence for Maya Political Resistance and Religious Syncretism in Colonial Belize

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pp. 68-82

Excavations at the Classic period Maya site of Chau Hiix, located in northern Belize, uncovered two Historic (ca. A.D. 1520–1660) burials within a palace structure. Both individuals were young males, and an analysis of their dental morphology shows them to be Maya. At the time of the interments, Chau...

Part 2. Ancient Travelers and “Others”

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6. Social Marginalization among the Chiribaya: The Curandero of Yaral, Southern Peru

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pp. 85-95

Curanderos, or healers, represent essential components of Andean communities, both today as well as in the past. Guaman Poma de Ayala, a native Peruvian who documented many aspects of the preconquest Inka world, acknowledged their importance in his Nueva Corónica y Buen Gobierno [1613] (1987). Guaman...

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7. A Neolithic Nomad from Dakhleh Oasis

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pp. 96-112

When thinking about ancient Egypt, most people envision the massive pyramids and pharonic tombs of the dynastic period. But people lived in, and journeyed through, Egypt for millennia before this. Predynastic Neolithic people were not pyramid builders. Instead, they were hunter-gatherers and nomadic...

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8. Lesley: A Unique Bronze Age Individual from Southeastern Arabia

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pp. 113-126

Tell Abraq is a multiperiod settlement on the Persian Gulf coast of the United Arab Emirates that was occupied continuously from ca. 2200 to 400 B.C., with evidence of limited reuse in the first and third centuries A.D. (Potts 2000a) (figure 8.1). The site consisted originally of a massive fortification tower, about...

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9. The “African Queen”: A Portuguese Mystery

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pp. 127-147

In the spring of 1947 a young farmer named Joaquim Inocêncio Militão began plowing a field on a large agricultural estate, the Herdade de Torre de Palma, located 5 km northwest of the town of Monforte in the Alto Alentejo, eastern Portugal. His plow struck the granite base of a column in an open area south of...

Part 3. Craftsmen and Artisans

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10. Sew Long? The Osteobiography of a Woman from Medieval Polis, Cyprus

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pp. 151-161

Mortuary practices of the early medieval period (mid- to late first millennium A.D.) in Cyprus are known from only a handful of sites. At Polis Chrysochous, excavations conducted by Princeton University since the mid-1980s have uncovered over 200 burials clustered in and around two medium-size, early...

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11. A Master Artisan? Tribute to the Founder of a Teotihuacán Apartment Compound

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pp. 162-176

Teotihuacán, in the central highland basin of Mexico, was one of the largest cities in the world during its florescence from ca. 100 B.C. to A.D. 600, and certainly the most influential in Mesoamerica during that time. Teotihuacán grew and nucleated rapidly, and by the A.D. 200s had some of the largest and...

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12. Vulcan: Skilled Village Craftsman of Ban Chiang, Thailand

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pp. 177-192

The history of the Ban Chiang project and the story of this collaborative archaeological excavation, one of the first in Southeast Asia, are vital to understanding the site, each of the individuals buried there, and their contributions to the prehistory of the region. The osteobiography of Vulcan documents a talented...

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13. Written in Stone, Written in Bone: The Osteobiography of a Bronze Age Craftsman from Alalakh

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pp. 193-214

Tell Atchana was first recorded as site number 136 by the Braidwoods’ archaeological survey of the fertile Amuq plain, once within the cultural sphere of ancient Syria, now in the modern nation of Turkey (Braidwood and Braidwood 1960). Shortly thereafter, Sir Leonard Woolley recognized that this mound on...

Part 4. Farm and Village

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14. Life and Death of a Mother and Child in Nineteenth-Century Ontario, Canada

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pp. 217-228

This chapter is about a woman and her child who both died of acute illness in September 1848 and who were interred in a small family cemetery in Upper Canada (part of the present-day province of Ontario). We focus on this known mother-infant pair to illustrate the value of information derived from...

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15. Thumbprints of a Midwife: Birth and Infant Death in an Ancient Pueblo Community

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pp. 229-241

This study explores the hazards of childbirth and infancy in a prehistoric Puebloan settlement. The focus of the study is a skeleton found buried in the floor of a room in Pueblo I at the site of Nuvakwewtaqa at Chavez Pass in north-central Arizona. An unusual feature of this skeleton is a series of partially...

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16. Reading a Life: A Fourteenth-Century Ancestral Puebloan Woman

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pp. 242-254

This study focuses on an adult female who lived at the fourteenth-century Puebloan village of Arroyo Hondo, New Mexico (figure 16.1). Sedentary dry farming as a way of life dates to A.D. 700. in the Galisteo Basin of northern New Mexico. Population in this basin increased notably during the...

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17. From Cradle to Grave and Beyond: A Maya Life and Death

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pp. 255-270

Bioarchaeologists, those whose studies take the remains of people as their terminus a quo, are neither unfamiliar with nor hostile to the notion of peopling the past. On the contrary, Buikstra (2006: xix) reminds us that bioarchaeology as an outgrowth of American anthropology emphasizes “peopling the...

List of Contributors

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pp. 271-275


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pp. 277-287

Further Reading

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E-ISBN-13: 9780813042749
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813038070
Print-ISBN-10: 0813038073

Page Count: 304
Illustrations: 84 b&w illustrations, 12 tables
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Human remains (Archaeology).
  • Persons -- History.
  • Biography.
  • Bones -- Social aspects -- History.
  • Excavations (Archaeology).
  • Historic sites.
  • Social archaeology.
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