The Archaeology of Human Bones

The Archaeology of Human Bones

The Archaeology of Human Bones

The Archaeology of Human Bones

Synopsis

There is no greater direct evidence regarding earlier human populations than their physical remains. This volume provides a pragmatic and up-to-date account of forensic analysis of human skeletal remains, and its application in tackling major historical and archaeological issues. The Archaeology of Human Bones starts with an introduction to the anatomy, structure and development of bones and teeth. It analyzes the biasing effects of decay and incomplete recovery on burial data from archaeological sites, and discusses what we may learn about ancient burial rituals from human remains. Subsequent chapters focus on the demographic analysis of ancient populations, normal skeletal variation, ancient disease and injury, the chemical analysis of bone, the study of DNA, and the study of cremated remains. Examples are brought from archaeological studies around the world. The Archaeology of Human Bones is a well-illustrated textbook for students of archaeology, explaining current scientific methods - technical jargon kept to a minimum - alongside critical discussion of their strengths and weaknesses.

Excerpt

Archaeology is about people and how they lived in the past. The study of the physical remains of those people should therefore be a central component of archaeological enquiry. This means studying skeletons, as the bones and teeth are the only human remains to survive in most instances. The aim of this book is to show the sorts of information which can be obtained from the scientific study of ancient human skeletal remains, and how these data can contribute to topics of general archaeological interest. We shall primarily be concerned with the study of the remains of anatomically modern man (Homo sapiens sapiens), rather than with the story of human evolution. Although modern man began to emerge about 100,000 years ago, in most areas of the world human remains more than about 5,000 years old are few, so in general the emphasis will be on the study of the last few thousand years of the human past.

Thanks are due to Theya Molleson, Sebastian Payne and James Steele, for comments on draft versions of various chapters. I am also grateful to Theya Molleson for allowing me access to some of her unpublished data. Thanks are also due to Justine Bayley, Don Brothwell, Simon Davis, Sylvia Dean-Mays, John Evans, Fachtna McAvoy, Patty Stuart-Macadam, Martin Richards and Maralyn Webb for furnishing off-prints, answering questions, or giving advice and general encouragement. Any blunders of fact or interpretation which remain are solely my own. I am grateful to the following for illustrations: Suffolk Archaeological Unit (Figure 2.2), Manchester University Press (Figure 2.3), The Wharram Research Project (Figure 2.4), Academic Press (Figures 2.5, 6.5 and 8.8), Council for British Archaeology (Figure 6.6), Central Archaeology Service, English Heritage (Figure 8.10), Nick Bradford (Figure 6.9), Springer Verlag (Figure 6.11), York Archaeological Trust (Figure 6.12), Wiley (Figure 8.9), The Royal Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities, Sweden (Figure 8.13). The remaining photographs were taken by Nigel Corrie of English Heritage Photographic Studio.

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