Book Chapter Details
Mandatory Fields
Barra O'Donnabhain and Maria Lozada
2014 June
Archaeological Human Remains: Global Perspectives
To Be or Not To Be: Global Approaches to Ancient Human Remains
New York
Optional Fields
Bioarchaeology, Museums, Race, Colonialism, Global
Ancient human remains have for long been a source of both fascination and contestation. Their appeal is multi-faceted and has complex origins. It is based partly on the human enthrallment with the issue of mortality. The dead provide learning moments for the living and it is common to reflect on the self when contemplating the material remains of people from the past. It is not surprising then that in archaeology the study of human remains is as old as the discipline itself but this relationship has had chequered histories in different world areas. This is partly due to the diversity of origins of skeletal research in discourses such as anatomy, medicine, racial studies, and evolutionary biology, while in some countries the influence of non-western traditions of science has also shaped the development of approaches to ancient human remains. As a result of these diverse histories, archaeological human remains have been used as the basis for a range of narratives such as human evolution; tracking ancient diseases; human variation; past migrations; and the reconstruction of past lifestyles. In some settings, human remains have provided the basis for politically-motivated narratives of ethnogenesis while in other countries, self-conscious attempts to characterise the nation as modern and civilized have produced a selective blindness to remains associated with the local past. Similarly, the appropriateness or otherwise of the retrieval, analysis and long term curation of human remains has provoked controversy in some world areas but not in others while in some contexts, forensic approaches have emerged as an important element in conflict resolution. Institutions such as national museums and universities have played central roles in the development of research into archaeological human bone. The diversity in terminology physical anthropology, biological anthropology, skeletal biology, osteology, bioarchaeology, human osteoarchaeology reflects the distinctive histories of research into archaeological human remains: there are many bioarchaeologies.
Barra O'Donnabhain and Maria Cecilia Lozada
Grant Details