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The People of the Ancient Near East
While mortuary ruins have long fascinated archaeologists and art historians interested in the cultures of the Near East and eastern Mediterranean, the human skeletal remains contained in the tombs of this region have garnered less attention. In Bioarchaeology and Behavior, Megan Perry presents a collection of essays that aim a spotlight on the investigation of the ancient inhabitants of the circum-Mediterranean area.
Composed of eight diverse papers, this volume synthesizes recent research on human skeletal remains and their archaeological and historical contexts in this region. Utilizing an environmental, social, and political framework, the contributors present scholarly case studies on such topics as the region's mortuary archaeology, genetic investigations of migration patterns, and the ancient populations' health, disease, and diet.
Other key anthropological issues addressed in this volume include the effects of the domestication of plants and animals, the rise of state-level formations, and the role of religion in society. Ultimately, this collection will provide anthropologists, archaeologists, and bioarchaeologists with an important foundation for future research in the Near East and eastern Mediterranean.
A View from South Asian Prehistory
In the context of current debates about global warming, archaeology contributes important insights for understanding environmental changes in prehistory, and the consequences and responses of past populations to them.
In Indian archaeology, climate change and monsoon variability are often invoked to explain major demographic transitions, cultural changes, and migrations of prehistoric populations. During the late Holocene (1400-700 B.C.), agricultural communities flourished in a semiarid region of the Indian subcontinent, until they precipitously collapsed. Gwen Robbins Schug integrates the most recent paleoclimate reconstructions with an innovative analysis of skeletal remains from one of the last abandoned villages to provide a new interpretation of the archaeological record of this period.
Robbins Schug’s biocultural synthesis provides us with a new way of looking at the adaptive, social, and cultural transformations that took place in this region during the first and second millennia B.C. Her work clearly and compellingly usurps the climate change paradigm, demonstrating the complexity of human-environmental transformations. This original and significant contribution to bioarchaeological research and methodology enriches our understanding of both global climate change and South Asian prehistory.
Bioarchaeology and Identity in the Americas represents an important shift in the interpretation of skeletal remains in the Americas. Until recently, bioarchaeology has focused on interpreting and analyzing populations. The contributors here look to examine how individuals fit into those larger populations.
The overall aim is to demonstrate how bioarchaeologists can uniquely contribute to our understanding of the formation, representation, and repercussions of identity. The contributors combine historical and archaeological data with population genetic analyses, biogeochemical analyses of human tooth enamel and bones, mortuary patterns, and body modifications. With case studies drawn from North, Central, and South American mortuary remains from AD 500 to the Colonial period, they examine a wide range of factors that make up identity, including ethnicity, age, gender, and social, political, and religious constructions.
By adding a valuable biological element to the study of culture--a topic traditionally associated with social theorists, ethnographers, and historical archaeologies--this volume highlights the importance of skeletal evidence in helping us better understand our past.
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.
Decapitation, Decoration, and Deformation
Building on the notion that human remains provide a window into the past, especially regarding identity, the contributors to this volume reflect on intentional and ritualized practices of manipulating the human head within ancient societies. These essays explore the human head’s symbolic role in political, social, economic, and religious ritual over the centuries.
By focusing on the various ways in which the head was treated at the time of death, as well as before and following, scholars uncover the significant social meaning of such treatment. This illuminating collection highlights biological and cultural manipulations of human heads, ultimately revealing whose skulls and heads were collected and why, whether as ancestors or enemies, as insiders or outsiders, as males, females, or children.
Featuring a wealth of case studies from scholars across the globe, this volume emphasizes social identity and the use of the body in ritual, making it particularly helpful to all those interested in the cross-cultural handling of skulls and heads.
Human violence is an inescapable aspect of our society and culture. As the archaeological record clearly shows, this has always been true. What is its origin? What role does it play in shaping our behavior? How do ritual acts and cultural sanctions make violence acceptable?
These and other questions are addressed by the contributors to The Bioarchaeology of Violence. Organized thematically, the volume opens by laying the groundwork for new theoretical approaches that move beyond interpretation; it then examines case studies from small-scale conflict to warfare to ritualized violence.
Experts on a wide range of ancient societies highlight the meaning and motivation of past uses of violence, revealing how violence often plays an important role in maintaining and suppressing the challenges to the status quo, and how it is frequently a performance meant to be witnessed by others.
The interesting and nuanced insights offered in this volume explore both the costs and the benefits of violence throughout human prehistory.
A Bioarchaeological Perspective
Studies of Ancient Skeletons
The archaeological site of Gordion is most famous as the home of the Phrygian king Midas and as the place where Alexander the Great cut the Gordian knot on his way to conquer Asia. Located in central Anatolia (present-day Turkey) near the confluence of the Porsuk and Sakarya rivers, Gordion also lies on historic trade routes between east and west as well as north to the Black Sea. Favorably situated for long-distance trade, Gordion's setting is marginal for agricultural cultivation but well suited to pastoral production. It is therefore not surprising that with the exception of a single Chalcolithic site, the earliest settlements in the region are fairly late—they date to the Early Bronze Age (late 3rd millennium B.C.). The earliest known levels of Gordion, too, date to the Early Bronze Age, and occupation of at least some part of the site was nearly continuous through at least Roman times (second half of the 1st century B.C.).
This work is a contribution to both the archaeobotany of west Asia and the archaeology of the site of Gordion. The book's major concern is understanding long-term changes in the environment and in land use. An important finding, with implications for modern land management, is that the most sustainable use of this landscape involves mixed farming of dry-farmed cereals, summer-irrigated garden crops, and animal husbandry. The large number of samples from the 1988-89 seasons analyzed here make this a rich source for understanding other materials from the Gordion excavations and for comparison with other sites in west Asia.
Macrobotanical Remains and the Oliver Phase of Central Indiana, A.D. 1200-1450
Prehistoric plant use in the Late Woodland of central Indiana.
This book explores the extent to which foodways, an important marker of group identity, can be recognized in charred macrobotanical remains from archaeological sites. From analysis of mere bits of burned plants we can discern what ancient people chose to eat, and how they cooked it, stored it, and preserved it.
Leslie Bush compares archaeobotanical remains from 13 Oliver Phase sites in Indiana to other late prehistoric sites through correspondence analysis. The Oliver area is adjacent to the territories of three of the largest and best-known archaeological cultures of the region—Mississippian, Fort Ancient, and Oneota—so findings about Oliver foodways have implications for studies of migration, ethnogenesis, social risk, and culture contact. Historical records of three Native American tribes (Shawnee, Miami, and Huron) are also examined for potential insights into Oliver foodways.
The study determines that people who inhabited central Indiana during late prehistoric times had a distinctive signature of plant use that separates them from other archaeological groups, not just in space and time but also in ideas about appropriate uses of plants. The uniqueness of the Oliver botanical pattern is found to lie in the choice of particular crops, the intensity of growing versus gathering, and the use of a large number of wild resources.