Bioarchaeology and Behavior: The People of the Ancient Near East

Bioarchaeology and Behavior: The People of the Ancient Near East

Bioarchaeology and Behavior: The People of the Ancient Near East

Bioarchaeology and Behavior: The People of the Ancient Near East

Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

The rich archaeological record from the Near East and eastern Mediterranean offers some of the best contexts for understanding the transition from foraging to farming, the appearance and evolution of complex societies, and social and cultural institutions that set the stage for the modern world. Important components of this record are skeletal remains recovered from a variety of contexts. While a graduate student in the late 1930s, J. Lawrence Angel recognized the significance of these remains for developing a more informed understanding of life conditions in the region, especially during the last 10,000 years. He first published on his early investigations in Greece in the late 1930s, and over the next half-century he provided insights into the population history, lifestyles, and quality of life in this diverse and important region. I well recall while I was an undergraduate student interning at the Smithsonian Institution in the early 1970s how Angel told me that this region would one day prove to be a center for understanding human-environment interactions. He gave me a copy of his recently published book about the temporal series of skeletons from Lerna, Greece (Angel 1971) and what these skeletons tell us about the people who lived there. His story didn’t focus solely on bones and teeth. Rather, his research emphasized the broad context of culture, environment, and living. As Perry and Buikstra point out in their preface to the chapters of this volume, Angel’s research on human remains was for many years largely ignored by prehistorians working in the region. Indeed, it would be years before scholars would begin to appreciate the potential of bioarchaeology for developing a more enriched perspective on the past. Today, however, the communication between anthropological archaeologists, prehistorians, and biological anthropologists has been instrumental in fueling a spate of research programs that rely on contextually informed perspectives of the human past.

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