Human Biology 74.3 (2002) 500-502
[Access article in PDF]
Biological Anthropology of the Human Skeleton
Biological Anthropology of the Human Skeleton, edited by M. Anne Katzenberg and Shelley R. Saunders. New York, NY: Wiley-Liss, 2000. 504 pp. $99.95 (hardback).
As the editors emphasize in their preface, this is not merely a revised second edition of their earlier coedited volume, Skeletal Biology of Past Peoples: Research Methods (Saunders and Katzenberg 1992). They indicate that with five new chapters (ethical issues, forensic anthropology, aDNA, dental pathology, paleohistology), extensive revisions, and many new authors, this is a decidedly different book. And indeed it is. Bioarchaeological methods have changed markedly, even within the past decade, as these authors emphasize. This is a significant reference volume for any student of bioarchaeology.
The initial section includes two topics not included in the previous publication. The first of these is entitled "Bioarchaeological Ethics: A Historical Perspective on the Value of Human Remains," by Phillip Walker. He presents a brief history of beliefs about the dead, of research on human remains and human variation, and of sources of skeletal collections. Ethical issues in the study of human remains receive extended treatment, as Walker emphasizes the complexity of this problem. His is a balanced perspective, though making a strong case for the scientific study of human remains. A second chapter, by Douglas Ubelaker, examines methodological considerations in forensic applications of human skeletal biology. A history of this rapidly expanding field is sketched, along with a brief discussion of the types of evidence forensic anthropologists typically provide in medico-legal contexts.
The second part of the volume concerns morphological analyses and age changes. Four of the chapters are by authors who wrote on similar topics in 1992: Ruff, "Biomechanical Analyses of Archaeological Human Skeletons"; Mayhall, "Dental Morphology"; Saunders, "Subadult Skeletons and Growth-Related Studies"; and Stout (now with Robling as a senior author), "Histomorphometry of Human Cortical Bone." The fifth chapter, "Dental Development and Subadult Age Assessment," is authored by FitzGerald and Rose. Each chapter reflects advances made during the 1990s.
Ruff illustrates both the methodology of biomechanical analysis and applications to research problems ranging from long-term evolutionary studies to microevolutionary changes that illustrate division of labor and sexual dimorphism. [End Page 500] Mayhall's contribution largely follows the outline of his earlier chapter, though new methods for characterizing variation in tooth size and morphology are included. He advocates a conservative methodological approach, emphasizing that observational consistency remains a key problem in dental observations. Saunders' study of subadult skeletons also follows her 1992 outline, beginning with a consideration of the sampling problems inherent in working with juvenile remains. She discusses age estimation and sex determination for subadults, advocating molecular approaches rather than skeletal/dental morphological studies for the latter. Accuracy of age estimation methods is also carefully considered.
FitzGerald and Rose's new chapter on the use of dental microstructure to estimate age-at-death in subadults includes critical evaluation of both invasive and noninvasive methods. The authors point out that most applications have focused upon evolutionary ontogeny, though bioarchaeological studies are now appearing. Robling and Stout's chapter on histomorphometry begins with a well-illustrated discussion of bone modeling and remodeling and then moves to the subject of age estimates. Variability due to sex differences, levels of physical activity, ancestry, and pathology are considered, along with suggestions for productive new research venues. Two appendices allow the reader to practice age estimation on a section of a femur and a rib and to review a series of published sources that use the histomorphometry of a range of bones to generate estimates.
Part III, Prehistoric Health, includes three chapters. The first of these, by Lovell, focuses upon gross observations of pathology in bone. Hillson then presents morphological features of disease in teeth. The section closes with a discussion of paleohistology by Pfeiffer. All three chapters are written by authors new to this volume.
Lovell argues that one of the first problems in paleopathology is the development of a common, accurate descriptive method for abnormal processes. She also considers various forms...