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Bioarchaeology of East Asia

Movement, Contact, Health

Edited by Kate Pechenkina and Marc Oxenham

Publication Year: 2013

East Asia spans more than 10 million square kilometers. The human remains examined by the contributors in this volume date from the Early Neolithic (more than 12,000 years ago) to the Iron Age (up to AD 500).

Bioarchaeology of East Asia interprets human skeletal collections from a region where millets, rice, and several other important cereals were cultivated, leading to attendant forms of agricultural development that were accompanied by significant technological innovations. The contributors follow the diffusion of these advanced ideas to other parts of Asia, and unravel a maze of population movements. In addition, they explore the biological implications of relatively rare subsistence strategies more or less unique to East Asia: millet agriculture, mobile pastoralism with limited cereal farming, and rice farming combined with reliance on marine resources.

Diverse scholarly traditions--from China, Japan, Mongolia, Russia, Australia, and the United States--supply a constructive mix of conceptual frameworks and methodologies. Chinese-to-English translations make chapters available that might not otherwise be published outside of China. Ideas stemming from this collection will significantly boost collaborative work among bioarchaeologists and other scientists working in East Asia.

Published by: University Press of Florida


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

List of Figures

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pp. vii-x

List of Tables

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pp. xi-xiv

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pp. xv-xvi

Bioarchaeological research provides a unique and valuable platform from which to address key attributes of lifeways and living conditions, especially in those areas of the world where large samples of human remains from archaeological settings are available. East Asia is just such a data-rich region. ...

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pp. xvii-xx

The overarching theme of this volume is human interaction and its consequences for the human condition across the vast expanse of East Asia during the Holocene, examined through the lens of human remains. The volume is also an exploration of human interaction at an entirely different level, bringing together chapters written by scholars from several distinct academic schools of thought. ...

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1. Research on Human Skeletal Biology in East Asia: A Historical Overview

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pp. 1-27

Bioarchaeology, perhaps best defined as a discipline focused on regionally based analysis of human remains within their archaeological contexts, with the objective of reconstructing human lives in past communities (see Buikstra 1977: 69; Larsen 1997; Buikstra 2006; Larsen 2006), became self-aware only fairly recently. ...

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2. Human Ecology in Continental and Insular East Asia

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pp. 28-58

Continental East Asia is loosely demarcated by the Tibetan plateau in the west, the Tian Shan and Altai mountain ranges in the northwest, the Yablonevy and Stanovoy ridges in the northeast, several distinct mountain ranges including Hengduan Shan and Fan Si Pan Sa Phin in the south, and the expanse of the Pacific Ocean on the east and southeast (figure 2.1). ...

Part I. Biological Indicators of Population Histories in East Asia

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3. The Population History of China and Mongolia from the Bronze Age to the Medieval Period (2500 BC–AD 1500)

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pp. 61-84

China and Mongolia together have experienced a unique and complex population history that has seldom been explored in detail within the context of microevolutionary studies. These two countries encompass a total area of more than 10,000,000 km2 and contain one-fifth of the world’s total population. ...

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4. Mongolian Origins and Cranio-Morphometric Variability: Neolithic to Mongolian Period

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pp. 85-109

This chapter explores the issue of cranio-morphological variability in samples from the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages, and Xiongnu to Mongolian periods, as well as examining the question of the origins and genetic relationships of these ancient populations. In Mongolia, the Neolithic is known from abundant surface finds in the proximity of present or former watercourses and lakes, ...

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5. A Nonmetric Comparative Study of Past and Contemporary Mongolian and Northeast Asian Crania

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pp. 110-124

Cranial nonmetric (epigenetic) variation is often employed in analyzing osteological remains at the population level and has successfully been used to evaluate biological affinities among archaeological and modern populations from different regions of the world (Kozintsev 1972; Wenger 1974; Finnegan and Marcsik 1979; Ossenberg 1990; ...

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6. Tuberculosis and Population Movement across the Sea of Japan from the Neolithic Period to the Eneolithic

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pp. 125-143

From prehistory until the present, humankind has been affected by a variety of infectious diseases. Major epidemics have caused the extermination of millions of human beings, at times leading to the downfall and even annihilation of entire nations (Sigerist 1943). The early African origin of the tuberculosis pathogen, Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mostowy and Behr 2005), ...

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7. Biological Connections across the Sea of Japan: A Multivariate Comparison of Ancient and More Modern Crania from Japan, China, Korea, and Southeast Asia

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pp. 144-178

A great many studies in physical anthropology have demonstrated that the Ainu of Japan are living descendants of the prehistoric Jomon (e.g., Brace et al. 1989; Dodo et al. 1998; K. Hanihara 1985, 1998; Howells 1966; Ishida 1996; Matsumura 2001; Mizoguchi 1986; Omoto et al. 1996; Ossenberg 1986; Turner 1976; Yamaguchi 1992). ...

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8. Population Dispersal from East Asia into Southeast Asia: Evidence from Cranial and Dental Morphology

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pp. 179-210

This chapter addresses the issues of population dispersal from East Asia into Southeast Asia, through prehistoric to modern times, from a bioanthropological perspective based on the analysis of human dental morphology. Given the many studies that discuss the local evolution of indigenous Southeast Asians and include modern southern China as part of Southeast Asia, ...

Part II. Community Health

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9. Conflict and Trauma among Nomadic Pastoralists on China’s Northern Frontier

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pp. 213-245

Throughout human history, migration has brought people of differing cultures into contact with one another, creating a necessity for interpersonal negotiation across what are usually parsed as ethnic divisions. Interethnic relationships often involve long-term consequences for all of the participants in such exchanges (Hill 1998). ...

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10. Stresses of Life: A Preliminary Study of Degenerative Joint Disease and Dental Health among Ancient Populations of Inner Asia

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pp. 246-264

The steppelands of Inner Asia encompass an extensive range of environmentally and culturally diverse settings. From the very earliest periods of human habitation until the present day, the communities of this region have been influenced by both local and regional variation in ecology and sociopolitical circumstances. ...

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11. Dental Wear and Oral Health as Indicators of Diet among the Early Qin People: A Case Study from the Xishan Site, Gansu Province

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pp. 265-287

Through a comprehensive analysis of oral health and dental wear, this chapter aims to reconstruct the subsistence practices of the Qin (秦) people during the Bronze Age, as well as some aspects of their habitual behavior involving teeth, in order to better understand the development of Qin culture. ...

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12. Yangshao Oral Health from West to East: Effects of Increasing Complexity and Contacts with Neighbors

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pp. 288-322

Human teeth are routinely exposed to and affected by a wide range of substances, including water and other liquids; food and nonfood particles incorporated into food during processing and cooking (Wallace 1975; Schollmeyer and Turner 2004; Lev-Tov Chattah and Smith 2006; Watson 2008); saliva and regurgitated food, ...

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13. Life on the Frontier: The Paleopathology of Human Remains from the Chinese Early Imperial Taojiazhai Mortuary Site

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pp. 323-343

This chapter presents data and analysis of the skeletal biology of a set of human remains recovered from the early imperial period Taojiazhai (陶家寨) cemetery, located in Qinghai Province, on the frontier between the Loess Plateau and the Qinghai-Tibet Plain. To the east were the farming communities of the Central Plains of China. ...

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14. Bioarchaeological Perspectives on Systemic Stress during the Agricultural Transition in Prehistoric Japan

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pp. 344-367

The purpose of this chapter is to document and interpret patterns of systemic stress during the agricultural transition in prehistoric Japan. Patterns of stress during the agricultural transition in this region have been explored by earlier research that generally relied on singular skeletal indicators of stress and disease ...

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15. Change in the Linear Growth of Long Bones with the Adoption of Wet-Rice Agriculture in Japan

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pp. 368-398

In an effort to demonstrate how changes in living conditions have affected body development, especially with the beginning of agriculture, the growth patterns of ancient Japanese populations were investigated using samples of juvenile skeletons from time frames ranging from the prehistoric Middle– Final Jomon (縄文) (c. 4000 –500/400 BC) ...

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16. Trauma and Infectious Disease in Northern Japan: Okhotsk and Jomon

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pp. 399-416

Stewart was writing more than 50 years ago in order to pose a mechanism to explain the perceived lack of disease in the New World prior to European contact. Influential in developing the notion of a relatively disease-free pre-European-contact New World was Ashburn’s (1947) thesis for good initial contact indigenous population health in the ethnohistorical records, ...

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17. A Paleohealth Assessment of the Shih-san-hang Site from Iron Age Taiwan

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pp. 417-443

The assessment of disease from excavated human skeletal remains and inference of health status, in concert with consideration of archaeological context from which they were recovered, can reveal useful and sometimes unanticipated details about past human lifeways. Extensive archaeological work on Taiwan over the past few decades ...

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18. Trajectories of Health in Early Farming Communities of East Asia

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pp. 444-481

In this chapter we examine the general trends in health that accompanied increasing reliance on millet cultivation and a later shift to wheat/barley agriculture by human communities of the Yellow and Wei River valleys of north-central China. Using data available in the literature, we then compare those trends to synchronous changes ...

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19. East Asian Bioarchaeology: Major Trends in a Temporally, Genetically, and Eco-Culturally Diverse Region

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pp. 482-498

One of the most significant aspects of this volume is the breadth of coverage of what is a vast and extremely complex region of the globe: mainland and insular East Asia. Moreover, this is the first attempt at collating such a diverse set of bioarchaeological studies of the region by scholars from very different schools of thought; ...

List of Contributors

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pp. 499-500

Index of Subjects

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pp. 501-509

Index of Archaeological Sites and Skeletal Collections

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pp. 510-512

Further Reading

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pp. 534-535

E-ISBN-13: 9780813045016
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813044279

Page Count: 534
Illustrations: 12 maps, 50 line art, 63 b&w photos,75 tables
Publication Year: 2013

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Human remains (Archaeology) -- East Asia.
  • Excavations (Archaeology) -- East Asia.
  • Human skeleton -- Analysis.
  • Paleopathology -- East Asia.
  • Paleoanthropology -- East Asia.
  • East Asia -- Antiquities.
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