Bioarchaeologists Speak Out

Bioarchaeologists who study human remains in ancient, historic and contemporary settings are securely anchored within anthropology as anthropologists, yet they have not taken on the pundits the way other subdisciplines within anthropology have. Popular science authors frequently and selectively use bioarchaeological data on demography, disease, violence, migration and diet to buttress their poorly formed arguments about general trends in human behavior and health, beginning with our earliest ancestors. While bioarchaeologists are experts on these subjects, bioarchaeology and bioarchaeological approaches have largely remained invisible to the public eye. Current issues such as climate change, droughts, warfare, violence, famine, and the effects of disease are media mainstays and are subjects familiar to bioarchaeologists, many of whom have empirical data and informed viewpoints, both for topical exploration and also for predictions based on human behavior in deep time. The contributions in this volume will explore the how and where the data has been misused, present new ways of using evidence in the service of making new discoveries, and demonstrate ways that our long term interdisciplinarity lends itself to transdisciplinary wisdom. We also consider possible reasons for bioarchaeological invisibility and offer advice concerning the absolute necessity of bioarchaeologists speaking out through social media.

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Bioarchaeology and Social Theory Series Editor: Debra L. Martin

Jane E. Buikstra Editor

Bioarchaeologists Speak Out Deep Time Perspectives on Contemporary Issues

Bioarchaeology and Social Theory

Series editor Debra L. Martin Professor of Anthropology University of Nevada, Las Vegas Las Vegas, NV, USA

More information about this series at

Jane E. Buikstra Editor

Bioarchaeologists Speak Out Deep Time Perspectives on Contemporary Issues

Editor Jane E. Buikstra School of Human Evolution and Social Change Arizona State University Tempe, AZ, USA

ISSN 2567-6776     ISSN 2567-6814 (electronic) Bioarchaeology and Social Theory ISBN 978-3-319-93011-4    ISBN 978-3-319-93012-1 (eBook) Library of Congress Control Number: 2018951775 © Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are reserved by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, express or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. This Springer imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland


The inspiration for this volume is a persistent dark smudge on the white wall of my study, which reflects the impact point of Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel (1997). Yes, I know that it is widely read, assigned in many classes, and has won a Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction (1998). So, I pick up the volume again only to see the dark smudge outline expand in a new direction. Why does this particular volume bother me so much? Doubtless one of the reasons, treated in more detail by Milner in this volume, is the persistent lack of sensitivity in Diamond’s narrative to agency and variation for those geographically disadvantaged. The anthropologist in me is particularly offended by the expansive broad strokes that paint over the nuanced detail of people’s lived experiences. “It isn’t that simple,” I opine to the wall. In the absence of a response from the ever-­ increasing blemish, I have mentioned to colleagues my dissatisfaction with such general approaches. Surely bioarchaeology has much to offer to general interpretations of long-term histories of people, their challenges, and their resiliency strategies. Why aren’t our voices heard concerning these issues, and how can we speak out more effectively to nonspecialist audiences? I was perched on this particular soapbox during a conversation with my valued colleague, Dr. Debra Martin, who has had similar reactions to Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of our Nature (2011), especially the manner in which evidence for skeletal trauma is marshaled to support Pinker’s thesis of decreasing violence through time. Deb has also argued compellingly for bringing the past to the present. “While archaeology and bioarchaeology focus on reconstructing the past, it is equally important to make the past a guide for preparing for and dealing with the future” (Martin and Harrod 2016: 170; see also Martin et al. 2013). Deb and I therefore agreed to organize a symposium for the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) in Minneapolis, November 16–20, 2016. While Deb and I collaborated on all stages of program development and execution, I focused on assembling the participants while Deb handled negotiations with the AAA. Our letter of invitation asked our participants to address: 1. Current public perceptions [but don’t overdo critiques of specific authors, however temping that might be.] v



2. Informed bioarchaeological perspectives (on a participant-specific topic, ranging from climate change to violence) 3. How should we be speaking out and effectively molding public perception? While we wanted our authors to recognize the public representations that are at issue, we did not want our book to be simply a larger dark smudge on the wall, but a true effort to correct the record in a manner that is accessible to nonspecialists. We also wanted our authors to make suggestions about approaches that might effectively increase the visibility of bioarchaeological perspectives. The symposium, scheduled during the afternoon of Saturday, November 19, 2016, included two sessions in order to accommodate the large number of participants. It was well attended and quite successful. At dinner after the session, we agreed to proceed with a volume, which we would target for the Springer series on Bioarchaeology and Social Theory that our co-organizer Debra Martin edits. We decided that our audience at this nascent stage would be anthropologists, social scientists from other disciplines, historians, and other scholars and science writers. We hoped that the volume would be of interest to the public, as well. I envisioned the audience as our colleagues, students, and science writers. While our ultimate goal is to reach a broader readership, it seemed prudent to begin with more modest goals. This volume is the product of that effort. A few of the original AAA symposia participants withdrew, primarily due to time constraints. We added a few others to fill some obvious needs. We hope that it meets expectations and will lead to further efforts by bioarchaeologists to Speak Out. Tempe, AZ, USA

Jane E. Buikstra

References Diamond, J. (1997). Guns, germs and steel: The fates of human societies. New York: W. W. Norton and Company. Martin, D. L., Harrod, R. P., Perez, V. R. (2013). Bioarchaeology: An integrated approach to working with human remains. New York: Springer. Martin, D. L., Harrod, R.P. (2016). The bioarchaeology of pain and suffering: Human adaptation and survival during troubled times. Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association, 27, 161–174. Pinker, S. (2011). The better angels of our nature: Why violence has declined. New York: Viking.


1 Bioarchaeologists Speak Out: An Introduction������������������������������������    1 Jane E. Buikstra and Katelyn L. Bolhofner 2 Knowing Your Audience: Reactions to the Human Body, Dead and Undead������������������������������������������������������������������������������������   19 Jane E. Buikstra 3 Bioarchaeological Evidence for Prehistoric Violence: Use and Misuse in the Popular Media����������������������������������������������������   59 R. C. Redfern and L. Fibiger 4 Bridging the Precontact and Postcontact Divide in Eastern North America: Prior Conditions Set the Stage for Historic Period Outcomes��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������   79 George R. Milner 5 Misconceptions About the Bioarchaeology of Plague ��������������������������  109 Sharon DeWitte 6 Changing the Climate: Bioarchaeology Responds to Deterministic Thinking About Human-Environmental Interactions in the Past����������������������������������������������������������������������������  133 Gwen Robbins Schug, Emily K. Parnell, and Ryan P. Harrod 7 Stone Agers in the Fast Lane? How Bioarchaeologists Can Address the Paleo Diet Myth����������������������������������������������������������  161 Hallie R. Buckley and Jane E. Buikstra 8 Ancient Migrations: Biodistance, Genetics, and the Persistence of Typological Thinking��������������������������������������������������������������������������  181 Christopher M. Stojanowski




9 Opening Up the Family Tree: Promoting More Diverse and Inclusive Studies of Family, Kinship, and Relatedness in Bioarchaeology������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  201 Kent M. Johnson 10 The Fallacy of the Transgender Skeleton����������������������������������������������  231 Pamela L. Geller 11 The Body-as-Evidence Paradigm in Domestic and International Forensic Anthropology���������������������������������������������  243 Dawnie W. Steadman 12 Contributions of Mummy Science to Public Perception of the Past��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  257 Kenneth C. Nystrom 13 Writing Bioarchaeological Stories to Right Past Wrongs��������������������  283 Alexis T. Boutin 14 Bioarchaeology and the Media: Anthropology Scicomm in a Post-Truth Landscape����������������������������������������������������������������������  305 Kristina Killgrove Index������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  325


Katelyn L. Bolhofner  Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX, USA Alexis T. Boutin  Department of Anthropology, Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, CA, USA Hallie  R.  Buckley  Department of Anatomy, University of Otago, Otago, New Zealand Jane E. Buikstra  School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA Sharon  DeWitte  Department of Anthropology, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, USA L.  Fibiger  School of History, Classics and Archaeology, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK Pamela  L.  Geller  Department of Anthropology, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL, USA Ryan P. Harrod  Department of Anthropology, University of Alaska Anchorage, Anchorage, AK, USA Kent M. Johnson  Department of Sociology and Anthropology, State University of New York at Cortland, Cortland, NY, USA Kristina  Killgrove  Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA George  R.  Milner  Department of Anthropology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA Kenneth C. Nystrom  Department of Anthropology, State University of New York at New Paltz, New Paltz, NY, USA




Emily  K.  Parnell  Department of Anthropology, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC, USA R. C. Redfern  Centre for Human Bioarchaeology, Museum of London, London, UK Gwen Robbins Schug  Department of Anthropology, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC, USA Dawnie  W.  Steadman  Department of Anthropology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA Christopher  M.  Stojanowski  School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA

About the Editor

Jane E. Buikstra is Regents’ Professor of Bioarchaeology and Founding Director of the Center for Bioarchaeological Research in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University. Professor Buikstra was elected to the National Academy of Sciences (1987), and she is past president of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, the American Anthropological Association, and the Paleopathology Association. She is also president of the Center for American Archeology. Dr. Buikstra has received the Pomerance Award for Scientific Contributions to Archaeology by the Archaeological Institute of America (2005), the T. Dale Stewart Award by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (2008), the Charles R. Darwin Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2008), the Eve Cockburn Award for Service from the Paleopathology Association (2011), an honorary Doctor of Science Degree from Durham University (UK) (2014), and the Lloyd Cotsen Prize for Lifetime Achievement in World Archaeology (2016).Dr. Buikstra defined the discipline of bioarchaeology, an international field that enriches archaeological knowledge of past peoples through scientific study of their remains and archaeological/historical contexts. Her research regions span the Americas and include the Eastern Mediterranean. She has published more than 20 books and 200 articles/chapters; she has mentored more than 50 doctoral students. Professor Buikstra was the inaugural editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Paleopathology. Among her current research projects, she is investigating the evolutionary history of ancient tuberculosis in the Americas based on archaeologically recovered pathogen DNA.


Chapter 1

Bioarchaeologists Speak Out: An Introduction Jane E. Buikstra and Katelyn L. Bolhofner

Introduction Knowledge of humankind’s past is essential for establishing effective ways of coping with today’s and tomorrow’s global challenges. Therefore, scholars with knowledge of deep time have a responsibility to communicate beyond academic boundaries in a manner that enters public debates and can be used as a basis for policy decisions. The authors represented in this volume are concerned that the media and popular writers frequently overlook, use selectively, and misuse bioarchaeological data in characterizing, for example, past patterns of conflict, nutrition-related disease, epidemics, massacres, and general health when faced with climate change. Popular authors such as Steven Pinker, Jared Diamond, and Loren Cordain frequently and selectively use and misuse archaeological data on demography, disease, violence, migration, and diet to buttress their arguments about general trends in human behavior and health, beginning with our earliest ancestors. Climate change, droughts, warfare, violence, famine, and the effects of disease are media mainstays—yet bioarchaeological approaches to such pressing issues, which represent subjects about which bioarchaeologists have empirical data and informed viewpoints, largely remain invisible to the public eye, both for topical exploration and for predictions based on human behavior in deep time. Possible explanations for this bioarchaeological invisibility abound. Perhaps we do not present our knowledge to the public in a manner that is taken seriously when contemplating issues of global importance. Bioarchaeological data do appear in the J. E. Buikstra (*) School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA e-mail: [email protected] K. L. Bolhofner Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX, USA e-mail: [email protected] © Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019 J. E. Buikstra (ed.), Bioarchaeologists Speak Out, Bioarchaeology and Social Theory,



J. E. Buikstra and K. L. Bolhofner

media in ways that dramatize and exoticize, frequently as intriguing case studies from the past: the odd ancient toothache or broken bone, engravings by cannibals, or the royal necrophilia most recently exemplified by Richard III’s remains (see also Chaps. 5 and 10). While readers are attracted to such snippets from humankind’s past, they scarcely provide the substance one needs to inform public debate and policy decisions. Bioarchaeologists and forensic anthropologists are writing books on contemporary issues, including Robbins Schug (2011; see also Chap. 6), who has explored broader issues of climate change from her South Asian dataset. Zuckerman and colleagues in Zuckermann’s (2014) edited volume, Reevaluating the Second Epidemiological Transition, have a remarkable range of informed perspectives relevant to today’s and tomorrow’s health challenges. Studies of violence by Martin and colleagues (e.g., Tegtmeyer and Martin 2017; Martin and Tegtmeyer 2017; Martin and Harrod 2015; Martin and Anderson 2014; Martin et al. 2012) hold considerable relevance for both small- and large-scale agonistic human interactions today. A very recent bioarchaeological volume written for the public draws a nonspecialist audience into humankind’s long-term history and the biological costs associated with our commitment to urban life (Hassettt 2017). We therefore have decided to bring our bioarchaeological knowledge of deep time to the global issues identified in the first paragraph of this chapter. Participants in this volume will explore the popular subjects identified here, present new ways of using evidence in the service of making new discoveries, and demonstrate ways in which our long-term interdisciplinarity lends itself to transdisciplinary wisdom. As we do so, we also will contemplate strategies for advancing bioarchaeological visibility in broader public arenas.

Defining Bioarchaeology Bioarchaeology, as defined and applied in the Americas and elsewhere, is the study of human remains from archaeological and historical contexts (Buikstra 1977; Buikstra and Beck 2006). Problem-oriented and multidisciplinary, it probes issues ranging from past identities to health and diet. Most of the contributions in this volume follow this definition. Buckley and Buikstra (Chap. 7), however, follow a definition promulgated slightly earlier by Grahame Clark (1972) in the UK, which initially referenced the study of faunal remains, but has been extended to include all manner of organic archaeological residues, including all forms of plants and animals. While humans frequently are included, they are considered along with other animals. The two traditions originated and expanded independently, currently enjoying an amicable coexistence. In the UK, bioarchaeology is frequently synonymized with osteoarchaeology. Bioarchaeology, in short, involves the contextualized study of archaeological human remains. Given this focus, bioarchaeologists are particularly equipped to provide rich temporal depth and knowledge to modern sociocultural, biological, and epidemiological issues. As described by various authors in this volume, by

1  Bioarchaeologists Speak Out: An Introduction


“investigating past lives and lifeways” (Chap. 13) and “reconstructing the lived experiences of individuals or groups” (Chap. 12) using “direct evidence from the tissues of [past] peoples” (Chap. 7), bioarchaeologists collect and examine data directly ­relevant to addressing the most crucial issues faced by the global community, as identified by the United Nations ( The chapters included in this volume explore the potential for effective bioarchaeological contributions to issues such as migration (Chaps. 4 and 8), health and diet (Chap. 7), epidemic diseases (Chap. 5), global warming (Chap. 6), and social identity and conflict (Chaps. 9 and 10). In the remainder of Chap. 1 and in Chap. 2, we will contextualize the rest of this volume within the larger narrative of the anthropological interface with the general public. We begin by discussing the areas in which bioarchaeology has become prominent in the public eye, highlighting in particular our key role in evaluating the health consequences of the “Neolithic Revolution.” We then consider archaeology in the public eye, including both US and UK examples. Prominent in the latter example are heritage studies and time travel. An overview of the chapters in this volume follows, including significant points and cross cutting themes. Finally, we conclude by returning to some of the major communication issues that occur when bioarchaeological research is presented to the public and offer advice on how to address these issues practically in our writing. In Chap. 2, we turn to the related topic of public perceptions of the human body and death, suggesting that an understanding of such will help us to better communicate with our audiences. There we consider our apparent fascination with death, corpses, forensic science, and dark tourism and argue that in order to better frame the results of our research, reach the public, and influence public opinion, we must be familiar with the twenty-first century popular understandings of our field. Chapter  2 closes with current information about legal restrictions on excavating and displaying the human body, including archaeological skeletons in the USA and UK. Included are examples of museum displays in both venues, along with an overview of public response.

Bioarchaeology’s Visible Successes As noted above, most media reports of human remains in archaeological and/or historical contexts involve isolated specimens recognized for their “oh wow” factor. As examples, we recently saw the following reported: a young man from Roman Spain with a hunched back due to Scheuermann’s disease (Surugue 2017), a woman’s remains from a gothic cemetery in Portugal that included a “tumor with teeth” (ovarian teratoma) (Gannon 2017), engraved bones discovered in 15,000-year-old cave of cannibals (Somerset, UK) (Yin 2017), ancient DNA revealing Viking warrior to be a woman (Greshko 2017), “gruesome” bog body (Lindow Man) (Long 2014), bones of Santa Claus discovered in Turkey (Gibbens 2017), and a “dancing skeleton” from Siberia (Gertcyk 2017). Thus is  bioarchaeology represented in popular culture.


J. E. Buikstra and K. L. Bolhofner

It appears that little has changed in the manner of reporting science and technology in the media since the early twentieth century. As Dorothy Nelkin (1987, p. 1) states in the first chapter of her iconic volume, Selling Science: In 1924, Edwin E.  Slosson, editor of the first science writing syndicate in America, described his view of science journalism. “The public that we are trying to reach is in the cultural stage when three-headed cows, Siamese twins and bearded ladies draw the crowds to the side shows.” That is why he explained, science is usually reported in short paragraphs ending in “-est.” “The fastest or the slowest, the hottest or the coldest the biggest or the smallest, and in any case, the newest thing in the world.”

For bioarchaeology, we would, of course, add “oldest” to this listing. But bioarchaeologists, paleopathologists, and practitioners of forensic anthropology/archaeology have written successfully for the public. Many of these efforts have been widely disseminated, especially fictional accounts such as those written by Kathy Reichs, whose Deja Dead (Reichs 1997) was the first of 20 or more novels that stimulated the TV series Bones (see Chap. 2). More commonly, forensic anthropologists write about specific, highly visible, frequently biohistorical cases, e.g., Charlier (2017), Bass and Jefferson (2004, 2008), Koff (2005), Manhein (2000), Maples and Browning (2001), Morris (2012), Rhine (1998), Ubelaker and Scammell (2000), and Zimmerman (2017). However intriguing zombies, vampires, or Czar Nicholas II may be, none of these topics are likely to make bioarchaeologists the “go to” folks for key issues facing today’s world. When have bioachaeologists successfully addressed global issues? The most visible success has been the issue of health and agriculture, as represented by the authors in Cohen and Armelagos’s important volume, Paleopathology at the Origins of Agriculture (Cohen and Armelagos 1984). The discovery that the “Neolithic Revolution” was a mixed blessing in terms of humankind’s health and nutrition, apparently across the globe, stimulated considerable public discussion, along with subsequent research. This volume, which illustrated deleterious health impacts in a number of world areas, generated both a powerful message and a robust bioarchaeological method. Subsequent attempts to investigate global issues include further case study volumes (Cohen and Crane-Kramer 2012; Klaus et al. 2017; Murphy and Klaus 2017). An alternative approach, attempting to mine data from across the Western Hemisphere (Steckel and Rose 2002) and Europe (Steckel et al. 2006, 2009), has been constrained by issues of noncomparable data collection standards, recovery bias, and limitations inherent in the construction of a comparative “health index.” Their immediate goals of using “big data” drawn from European contexts to address the relationship between ecology and health across deep time are exciting, as are plans to subsequently consider “(1) long-term trends in patterns of trauma and violence, (2) social inequality and health, (3) early childhood biological stress and adult health, (4) the health of women and children, (5) health during the rise and fall of civilization, (6) degenerative joint disease and work, (7) analysis of population genetics and migration patterns using ancient DNA, and (8) use of DNA from specific pathogens to study the co-evolution of humans and pathogenic organisms” (Steckel et al. 2006, p. 70). The challenge in addressing each of these topics will be

1  Bioarchaeologists Speak Out: An Introduction


to develop generalizations that appropriately reflect inherent methodological limitations and nuanced differences in bioarchaeological contexts. The synthesis of detailed case studies, whether of regions or of individuals, is an engaging method for drawing readers, including nonspecialists, into larger issues. For this reason, we prefer Charles Mann’s (2005) 1491 to Diamond’s (1997) Guns, Germs, and Steel. Nonspecialist readers have criticized 1491 for being overly burdened with details (1491 website, accessed 9-28-17), and specialists have argued that insufficient attention was given to details (Jones 2015). While the osteobiographic method (sensu Saul 1972; Saul and Saul 1989; but see also Robb 2002) has developed an important niche in bioarchaeology (Stodder and Palkovich 2012), it is crucial that biographies of individuals and of communities use their detail as a prism through which larger issues are addressed. One of the many insightful examples in this volume is DeWitte’s consideration of epidemics based within her studies of Britain’s Black Death cemeteries (see Chap. 5). Boutin’s (Chap. 13) narratives also begin with individualized accounts that then inform broader issues. To further examine the manner in which we should gauge our audience as we write from the perspective of bioarchaeology, we will consider popular perceptions of archaeologists in the USA and the Heritage Archaeology Movement in the UK. In Chap. 2, we will expand this discussion by turning to an examination of popular culture and perceptions of the body.

Popular Perceptions of Archaeology Public Opinion and Heritage Tourism “What first comes to your mind when ‘archaeology’ is mentioned?” This was the first open-ended question posed during a survey commissioned by a coalition of eight organizations, including US government and archaeological organizations, along with the Archaeological Institute of America. The report, entitled “Exploring Public Perceptions and Attitudes about Archaeology” (Ramos and Duganne 2000) and published by the Society for American Archaeology, outlines responses by a nonspecialist sample of Americans from the continental USA to queries about archaeology and its practitioners. The survey also considered public opinion about the value of archaeological resources, how information about archaeology is acquired and where, and attitudes about conservation of archaeological resources. The most important for bioarchaeology is the fact that over half of those surveyed responded either “digging” (22%) or “digging for something” (37%). “Digging up bones” (type unspecified) and “bones” garnered 9% each, while either “dinosaurs” or “digging up dinosaurs” yielded a 13% response (Ramos and Duganne 2000, p. 11). In general, further responses focused upon excavating, finding, and discovering. Past civilizations and lifeways were mentioned. Objects rather than


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people seemed to dominate open-ended answers, with dinosaurs being the only animal clearly specified, along with human history. At the time of this survey, nearly 20 years ago, television was reported to by the primary source of information (56%), followed by magazines (33%) and newspapers (24%) (Ramos and Duganne 2000, p. 16). The role of blogs and other forms of social media undoubtedly would alter these proportions today. Also important is the fact that among those surveyed, archaeology generally was considered valuable. Reported most frequently was its significance in understanding the modern world, while others emphasized importance in international affairs and in shaping social values. Site conservation and the conjoined scientific and educational significance of archaeology also were considered important. To better understand popular responses and opinions of archaeology and archaeological sites, we must examine the phenomenon billed as “heritage tourism.” Experiencing the residues of the past, including travel to them, comprises a significant portion of the tourism industry. Parker Pearson et al. (2013) report that income estimates for the heritage tourism industry in the UK alone are about one billion pounds per  annum. The vision of English Heritage is “that people will experience the story of England where it really happened” (http://www., accessed 9-23-17). The visitor to English Heritage’s website is invited to “step into England’s story.” While not exactly an invitation into Wells’ (1895) time machine, the experiential implication is clear. Wells’ time machine is, however, evident in “time traveling,” a postmodern development within the sphere of heritage tourism. Defined by Holtorf (2017, p. 1) as “an embodied experience and social practice in the present that brings to life a past or future reality,” time traveling brings a sense of “pastness” to the present. Unlike traditional archaeology, it begins in the present as it explores relationships to the past.

 rchaeology as Popular Culture: Time Travel and A Heritage Studies Cornelius Holtorf has addressed archaeology as popular culture, or the collection of mainstream ideas and attitudes for a given culture, in a number of publications (Holtorf 2005, 2007, 2017). In Chap. 2, we will explore the relationship between the pop culture of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and perspectives on death and the corpse, but it is important to begin by introducing the relationship between archaeology and public perceptions here. In his 2005 volume, Holtorf argues that the significance of archaeology is for people living today, not for past peoples and not to the specialist archaeologist. In From Stonehenge to Las Vegas, for example, he argues “that archaeology is mainly about our own culture in the present. In popular culture, archaeology is about searching and finding treasure below the surface. The necessary fieldwork involves making discoveries under tough conditions and in exotic locations. As a detective of the past, the archaeologist tries to piece together

1  Bioarchaeologists Speak Out: An Introduction


what happened in the past. For many this process of doing archaeology is more exciting and important than its actual results” (Holtorf 2005, pp. 158–159). In addition to this very presentist, postmodern perspective, he proposes 12 “theses” that at face would be an anathema to any scholarly archaeologist. Among these, we see, however, the theme of doing—the habitus (sensu Bourdieu 1977) of archaeological practice—emphasized, as it was in the Ramos and Duganne (2000) opinion report on archaeology in the USA. In Archaeology is a Brand! (Holtorf 2007, p. 284), Holtorf condenses archaeology in popular culture to four grand themes: A theme: adventures in exotic locations. D theme: detectives. R theme: reassuring us about our prospects. C theme: conservation of sites and artifacts. These themes are further characterized as stereotypical clichés that dominate public perception, sharing an emphasis upon doing archaeology, rather than specific analytical or interpretative results. Holtorf’s four themes and the culture and lifestyle they represent ground the very positive brand of archaeology, which Holtorf argues should be valued by practicing archaeologists. The professionals who decry the approaches represented by Indiana Jones or Lara Croft risk offending their publics, when they should be building on the brand and using it to their advantage. The stories these fictional characters tell are about heroes overcoming adversity through hard work and attention to detail, perhaps answering larger existential questions. Such life histories resonate with the public, as they portray adventures where archaeological detectives engage in the mystery and excitement of self-discovery (Holtorf 2007). Holtorf (2007, pp. 235–236) also adapts three alternative models for the relationship between science and society to the archaeological context. These models include the following: 1 . The education model: Elite scientists enlighten citizens. 2. Public relations model: Seeks to improve public image of science for political and economic self-interest. 3. Democratic model: Emphasizes scientific responsibility and sustainable development based in participatory processes wherein nonscientists predominate. While he clearly expresses more positive opinions of the third model, emphasizing its resonance with indigenous peoples, Holtorf ultimately concludes that a combination may be preferable, including elements of each. Unsurprisingly, Holtorf’s two volumes have excited critical response. Archaeologist Kristian Kristiansen characterizes Holtorf’s work as “a dangerous attempt to deconstruct archaeology as a historical discipline in order to allow modern market forces to take over the archaeological heritage and the consumption of the past as popular culture” (Kristiansen 2008, p.  488). In response, Holtorf (2008, p. 492) suggests that a more interesting debate would be whether or not academic archaeology arose due to “a long-standing popular


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fascination with archaeological themes,” as he suggests or, vice versa, as Kristiansen would argue. While archaeologists may long argue about the many dimensions of Holtorf’s assertions, his attention to the manner in which archaeology resonates among nonspecialists is important for characterizing public understanding of archaeology. Mirroring the earlier SAA report (Ramos and Duganne 2000), it is the “doing” of archaeology that is of interest, the discovery, and the mystery. As Holtorf (2007, pp. 24–25, after Schulze 1993) also emphasizes, experiential value is replacing use and monetary values, such that “the market for experiences is expanding fast.” Thus, the experience of archaeology is embodied in both the specialist and the nonspecialist practitioner. Holtorf’s (2017) most recent effort to explore heritage tourism and time travel investigates the ways in which various experiences, from simple re-creations and performance to various 3-D methods, may encourage public engagement with the past (Petersson and Holtorf 2017). Importantly, evaluations of visitor expectations and experiences gauge the relative success of these approaches. Thus, we have seen that many people today are interested in learning about and experiencing the past. For the bioarchaeologist who explores the challenges faced by in past peoples, this means that we have a popular subject matter and a ready audience. How do we develop compelling and accessible arguments that bring our knowledge about contemporary issues to the public? What topics should we select and what should we say about them?

Introduction to the Chapters in this Volume In this section, we introduce the subsequent chapters in this volume. As we discussed above, Chap. 2 will extend our consideration of public perceptions of bones, corpses, and death. In Chap. 3, Redfern and Fibiger extend this analysis to a detailed examination of the public perception of violence, as formed by (mis)perceptions of  the archaeological evidence for “moving ever-forward towards civilization” (Chap. 9, p. 210). Here, Redfern and Fibiger suggest that this public appetite for “research” demonstrating a violent past and an increasingly peaceful present often is directly fed by a language divide between archaeologists and bioarchaeologists and the general public, further facilitated by the popular media. The authors demonstrate this language divide through several case studies, concluding with suggestions for ways in which this public interest in trauma research can be more appropriately answered with unambiguous, nonsensationalizing reports and through demonstrations of experimental bioarchaeology. In both scholarly reports and popular media, the transition from precontact (prehistoric) periods to postcontact (historic) periods is often discussed as a movement “from good to bad.” In Chap. 4 of this volume, George Milner suggests that this view strips postcontact societies of their diversity and agency, thus imposing uniformity on frequently complex precontact histories. Through an examination of Eastern

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Woodlands populations, Milner reviews the ways in which, over the past several decades, archaeologists have begun to address these interpretive issues through projects that more closely examine the size and spatial distribution of precontact communities, the temporal and spatial variability of conflict among these groups, and the diverse responses to European arrival in North America. In this chapter, Milner acknowledges that European arrival in North America did abruptly affect the cultural trajectories of American Indians but demonstrates the great variation in the ways that native peoples responded to this arrival and actively shaped their nuanced social and natural experiences. This chapter demonstrates the opportunity bioarchaeologists have to convey the richness and diversity within groups, whether ethnic, linguistic, religious, geographic, or otherwise, which are so often mischaracterized as uniform cultural “blocks.” As conquest and migration are often portrayed as sweeping, uniform effectors of change devoid of individual agents, so, too, are epidemic diseases. In Chap. 5, Sharon DeWitte discusses how the Black Death has often been portrayed as an indiscriminate killer, leading to assumptions that plague burial groups provide “snapshots” of once-living populations. However, DeWitte argues that recent bioarchaeological analyses indicate that age and previous exposure to physiological stressors predisposed certain individuals to a more likely death by plague. Therefore, we should not assume indiscriminate mortality even under catastrophic conditions. By studying the nuances of the Black Death and its effect on populations in England, bioarchaeologists can contribute valuable insight into the environmental, biological, social, economic, and political contexts that favor the emergence and epidemicity of disease, in turn offering detailed, temporally rich data for prevention, surveillance, and control of disease in the present and future. Public misconceptions of bioarchaeological research can occur easily; thus, researchers must take responsibility for the ways in which their message may read to members of the general public. Further, scholars should follow the popular dissemination of their findings in order to ensure an interactive dialogue. In Chap. 6 of this volume, Robbins Schug and colleagues argue that anthropological studies of global warming, and public reports written in reference to its impending increase, have elicited an adaptionist narrative, whereby increased competition for decreased resources is said to bring inevitably violent clashes as the climate changes. By examining human responses to past changes in climate, these researchers hope to provide “an antidote to determinist thinking”: a focus on diversity and variation in response to change. This non-determinist thinking is a particularly critical contribution bioarchaeologists can make to current sociopolitical discourse. As with the issue of global warming, anthropological research regarding human diet and health trends also has been misappropriated in the popular media, often in support of a particular agenda or product. In Chap. 7 of this volume, Hallie Buckley and Jane Buikstra discuss the emergence of the popular “Paleo Diet,” with its alleged basis in archaeological and bioarchaeological data. This health trend calls for a return to our evolutionary, ancestral diet. Yet, through a review of isotope analyses, plant microfossils, DNA analysis, and archaeological studies, Buckley and Buikstra demonstrate that a “Stone Age” diet was dependent largely upon context and


J. E. Buikstra and K. L. Bolhofner

e­ cology, resulting in a diversity of specialized Paleolithic diets, rather than a single ancestral suite of food products. Through a close examination of bioarchaeological data and health trends in Oceania, this chapter demonstrates the critical need for researchers to more effectively demonstrate and communicate the rich time depth of diversity in our species. Joining climate change and health at the forefront of popular concern, the issues of mass human migration and displacement recently have come to the world stage in a new, urgent form. In Chap. 8, Christopher Stojanowski reviews the long-held interest of physical anthropologists and bioarchaeologists in migrations. In this chapter, he demonstrates that while the pioneering work of physical anthropologist Earnest Hooton has been criticized as essentialist, typological, and therefore outdated, new technologies examining ancient migrations have actually returned to typological framing. Stojanowski demonstrates that as the popular media looks to these new accounts, the coverage of ancient DNA studies reveals “a striking concern with racial phenotype, an assumption of pure ancestral stocks, and an emphasis on admixture as a historical process.” In this chapter, he argues that given this opportunity to speak out on such critical issues, the ways in which bioarchaeologists discuss and frame their work really do matter. Language and visualizations can reaffirm specific views of the human past in ways that are not intended, are not productive, and are not interpreted properly. In a similar vein, in Chap. 10 Pamela Geller cautions that the present fundamentally conditions our perception of the past, just as it conditions the interpretation of our work by the public and popular media. Geller’s discussion of gender variance and the complexities of social identity, as well as Kent Johnson’s discussion in Chap. 9 of the great variety in the social construction of “family” across time and space, provides excellent examples of the ways in which bioarchaeologists can grapple with such cross-cultural phenomena in ways that speak to cultural complexities. Johnson presents bioarchaeological data demonstrating that the people and structures that constitute a family are diverse, and there is no “natural” or “essential” human form of family. In fact, “genealogical kinship is not the only way that relatedness and family are conceived, practiced, and experienced” (Chap. 10, p. 234). Similarly, Geller demonstrates that gender variance, not normative gender identities or roles, is an ancient and cross-cultural phenomenon. She warns that “we should not assume that identities born of present-day sociopolitical circumstances had relevance in the past,” and she urges that this message must be relayed in any interpretations of our work. As we present our findings to the popular media and the nonspecialist audiences, then, we must be especially careful in our use of terms and concepts as we describe past contexts and conditions. This caution is perhaps most salient in discussions based upon mummies and forensic anthropology, due to their seeming inherent popularity and public attention. This interest provides a marvelous opportunity for researchers to speak out about health, disease, conservation, and human rights, among other important topics. This popularity can, however, be a double-edged sword. In Chap. 11, Dawnie Steadman reviews the ways in which the popular media-fueled “CSI effect”—a set of expectations by a jury about what evidence should be collected and how it should

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be handled—has influenced the viewing public, lawyers, law enforcement, and even forensic scientists over the past 20 years. Steadman argues that we must level expectations of what forensic science can provide, particularly to post-conflict communities. The evidence demanded by dramatized expectations is often unnecessary, unrealistic, or irrelevant in actual casework and criminal justice proceedings. She further demonstrates that cultural sensitivity and embracing multiple perspectives are key to forensic work, particularly on an international stage. Just as this relatively new fascination with forensic science provides opportunity for engagement between anthropologists and the public, the deep history of public fascination with mummies presents both challenges and opportunities. Both explicitly focus most commonly on individuals and thus immediately generate public interest because they “humanize” the deceased and present a relatable identity. In Chap. 12, Ken Nystrom suggests that more than simply discovering the age and sex of the deceased individual, the public and museumgoers love to learn the intimate details and life history events (fabricated or otherwise) of individual mummies. The issue for bioarchaeologists in conveying mummy science to the public and popular media is therefore not in generating interest. Rather, the challenge is redirecting attention to broader messages about topics such as embodiment and social identity. This requires careful thought to the manner in which we frame and present our studies. Mummy science has the potential to answer big picture questions of social identity, cultural response to disease, social organization, and a host of other pressing, “real-world” issues. Both forensic and mummy science have the popular appeal to bring these issues into the public eye and to facilitate the significance and broader impacts of bioarchaeological, archaeological, and paleopathological studies. In the last two chapters of this volume, the authors return to the question, “How? How can we as researchers and scholars more effectively speak out about the relevance of our work to the critical issues faced by contemporary society? And how can we better monitor the interpretations of our data by the popular media so as to avoid dramatizing and exoticizing? In Chap. 13, Alexis Boutin notes that the anthropologist’s contribution to the world can be summarized as making the world a safer place for diversity. However, in order to demonstrate the relevance of our research to this objective, we must explore new ways of communicating with the public and making our work more accessible. Boutin describes three potential forms of interpretation that may be used to convey the results of skeletal analysis to varying audiences, suggesting that affective narratives offer the means for wider dissemination of results. Boutin concludes that broader dissemination in this way can act to demonstrate the relevancy of bioarchaeological work to the public, as well as to “rehumanize its practitioners,” cultivating empathy and awareness of diversity across time and space. In Chap. 14, Kristina Killgrove offers further practical advice for effective bioarchaeological outreach. Killgrove reviews the difficulties faced by researchers publishing and engaging with the public in the context of the twenty-first century science communication, where the goal of explaining scientific data comes into direct contact with the very real need to address contemporary social issues of


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p­ erceived relevancy to the reader, funding agency, etc. This chapter also provides detailed advice on “writing anthropology for the public” and offers other ideas for supporting those individuals and outlets working to speak out.

Best–Practice Methods in Communication  he Task at Hand: Conveying Important Messages T Without Sensationalizing In this chapter, we have demonstrated that there is public interest in archaeology and bioarchaeology; bioarchaeologists have relevant and timely messages to convey with their research. Having a message is an essential part of the issue, of course, but another essential element is communication. How to speak out while avoiding the type of misinterpretation and misappropriation of our results discussed by Redfern and Fibiger (Chap. 3) and Geller (Chap. 11)? A key point made in Chap. 3 by Redfern and Fibiger merits emphasis here, as we think about relationships between publication venues and audiences. If we are writing for our colleagues as fellow scholars, even if the subject is Ötzi, we should resist the temptation to sensationalize. If our work is being communicated to a more general public, whether by a science writer or ourselves, then the manner in which the argument is focused and the terms used can appropriately adapt. However, when our scientific paper is preoccupied with mass media appeal, such as the “massacre” at Nataruk and or “mass cannibalism” of Herxheim, the presentation risks become a subjective justification of the catchphrase, rather than being an objective, scientific discussion. The issue of objectivity cannot be overemphasized in the discussion of best-­ practice communication. But a related and equally significant issue when conveying bioarchaeological research is simply ensuring that we, and those communicating our research, are getting facts right! For example, the introductory chapter of historian Thomas Laqueur’s very popular volume, The Work of the Dead, states that human skeletons, the “...remains of friends, of enemies, and of strangers...,” have been considered “...pretty much indistinguishable...” from one another, that is, until “the advent of forensic DNA technology and other modern techniques” (Laqueur 2015, p.  3). Beyond ignoring several centuries of physical anthropological study that would suggest quite the opposite, Laqueur’s statement here presents both a false premise and an unrelated conclusion. Though he is a historian rather than a bioarchaeologist, resting the premise of this popular work on such a claim demonstrates the disconnect that can occur between bioarchaeological research and popular materials. Similarly, as discussed briefly at the start of this chapter, Jared Diamond’s persistent emphasis upon the absence of infectious diseases in the New World prior to Colombian contact is widely published in venues and formats very accessible to the nonspecialist reader (Diamond 1997, 2005). Aside from encouraging those familiar with contradictory information to wonder just how much

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c­ redence to accord his arguments on other topics, this disconnect between the popular message and the scientific data should spur bioarchaeologists in particular to significant inquiry into the best-practice procedures for speaking out with more objectivity and more clearly articulated scientific facts. An important cautionary tale for the authors of this volume and other bioarchaeologists wishing to speak out emerges from the public reaction to Questioning Collapse (McAnany and Yoffee 2010), edited by Patricia McAnany and Norman Yoffee. McAnany and Yoffee gathered a multidisciplinary team to address concerns about Jared Diamond’s use of scientific data in developing his popular arguments about how demographic, climatic, and political dissention create the conditions that foment the collapse of civilizations. In their own words, the contributors, like those represented in Bioarchaeologists Speak Out were, “deeply concerned about the inaccuracies of popular portrayals and feel that students and laypersons alike deserve to read a better story—one that is more deeply contextualized and perhaps more complicated but in the end more interesting” (McAnany and Yoffee 2010, pp. 3–4). Thus, the authors sought to bring scientific data to the public in less sensationalized, more accurate terms than those included in Diamond’s works. Rather than receiving a warm reception from a generalist readership, however, the language and tone of the volume have been met with critique. The statistics provided by, currently the “world’s largest bookstore,” indicate that 40% of reviewers gave Questioning Collapse 1 of 5 stars, while Collapse earned 5 of 5 stars from 54% of reviewers, and only 6% of readers gave Diamond’s book a 1-star rating (, 2017; Questioning-Collapse-Resilience-Ecological-Vulnerability/dp/0521733669, 2017). As scholars wishing to communicate our research outcomes effectively and to address misconceptions promoted by such authors, we should examine these results more closely, i.e., why is Diamond’s book so well received when compared to the “more interesting,” “better story” that McAnany and Yoffee sought to present? Particularly when one of their stated goals was to, “write in such a way that the public can grasp … the significance of [their] research findings”? (McAnany and Yoffee 2010, p. 5). One reviewer on sums up their reaction to McAnany and Yoffee as “academicians defending the priesthood against intrusions by articulate barbarian popularizers invading their turf,” and another states, “like many expert’s books - in this case many experts’ joint effort - the inquisitive layperson is required to find his way through contradicting viewpoints, interpretations and even raw data. In this case it was easy to tell the reliable Collapse from the questionable Questioning Collapse” ( Questioning Collapse reviews). These comments demonstrate that attention to clarity, tone, verbiage, language, and readability is as crucial in best-practice communication with nonspecialist audiences as objectivity and academically informed results. So how do we balance clear communication with the conveyance of scientifically rigorous results and interpretations? As Killgrove explores in the final chapter of this volume, our messages must be thoughtfully tailored to our diverse intended audiences. This often means adjusting verbiage, removing jargon, and framing our results


J. E. Buikstra and K. L. Bolhofner

in such a way that they will hold broader appeal. In the following section, we review briefly the progress that has been made in the field of science communication, particularly by practitioners in the field of forensic science, and suggest a few practical tools and techniques to be employed when writing for a nonspecialist audience.

Writing for Your Audience Efforts to refine and evaluate successful communication of forensic science to the public, particularly within the criminal justice system, offer valuable lessons in this regard. In their 2017 publication, Howes and Kemp argue that effective communication is more than simply conveying a clear conclusion or main point and that increased transparency and careful consideration of the language used in explaining the entire approach are necessary for a nonscientist’s understanding. Too often, perhaps in an attempt to provide framing of a difficult topic (Scheufele 1999, 2013), we focus upon the headline—the attention-grabbing, exciting results of our research condensed into a few lines. While providing a frame of reference to spark the interest and understanding of a nonspecialist audience can be effective, these authors suggest that it is increasingly important to provide transparency and clarity in describing more than just the bottom line. By using descriptive terms, remaining mindful of sentence length, noting key limitations and assumptions, and avoiding overly complex tables, it is possible to allow a reader to follow the scientist’s logic throughout the project (Howes 2015). In this way, it is more likely that we will maintain clarity in the conveyance of our research questions, methods, results, and interpretations, and less likely our headlines will be sensationalized or misunderstood. While this attention to language modification and the consideration of various modes of communication are essential to speaking out more effectively, we should also be aware of the readability of our writing. As science communication becomes increasingly dialogic (at least in stated intent) through the establishment of interactive blogs and websites (Brossard and Scheufele 2013; Peters 2013; e.g., Bertram and Katti 2013; Meyers Emery and Killgrove 2015), it is crucial that we remain aware of the basic requirements for broad public perception. In recent decades, a number of tools have been developed for the purpose of testing the readability of a document. These tests assign an “Ease of Reading” score based upon mathematical calculations of elements such as the average number of syllables per word, the average sentence length, the percentage of “hard words,” and so on in a given document. Some of these tests generate a readability score that can be compared to an index, while other tests provide a grade level indicating that the document would be appropriate for the average US student in that school grade. To illustrate, using the website, we assessed the chapters in this volume using eight different readability tests. Overall, readability calculations revealed that the chapters range from fairly difficult to read to very difficult to read, with appropriate reader’s age levels listed from 13 years old to college graduate and above. When examined for appropriate

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Number of Chapters

5 4 3 2 1 0



14 Grade Level



Fig. 1.1  Results from readability tests conducted on the chapters in this volume, which demonstrate that the majority of chapters presented here are written to adults with at least a college degree, if not some graduate work

assignment to a US school grade level, the results span from high school to graduate school (Fig. 1.1). When results for the eight tests are examined more closely, we see that the majority of chapters in this volume are considered too difficult for most English-speaking people to read. For example, all chapters except one received a Gunning fog index score of 14.7 or higher. The ideal readability according to this index is a score of 7 or 8, and anything above 12 is considered too complicated. The Flesch-Kincaid readability index is the standard for assessing readability for many US government agencies. It indicates the number of years of education an individual requires to understand a given document. When results of this test are examined for the chapters in this volume, all but one chapter requires a high-school education. Four chapters require the reader to be a college graduate. While these scores are appropriate for the intended audience for this volume, the results of these tests reveal that real adjustments would be required for the information presented here to be accessible to a broader public. We offer this analysis as a challenge to our authors and other bioarchaeologists as they prepare documents suitable for speaking out.

Conclusions and Crosscutting Themes The chapters presented in this volume demonstrate first that the diversity, complexity, and variation among past groups must be central considerations in our research, our theoretical paradigms, our conclusions, and our public messages.


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Bioarchaeological research demonstrates that during major world events, such as global climate change (Chap. 6), epidemic disease outbreak (Chap. 5), or mass human migrations (Chaps. 4 and 8), the actors were individuals with agency, and their social, cultural, ecological, and health contexts varied greatly even in relatively confined geographical areas. In contrast to the popular syntheses of Diamond (1997) and Pinker (2011), this underlying diversity in human response to challenges must be central in our message to policy-makers and the public. While researchers should work to “speak out,” the tendency to push for broader dissemination in popular media can come at the expense of peer review, resulting in perpetuated misinformation. Similarly, efforts to appeal to popular media can result in perpetuation of “presentism,” rather than recognition of its bias and rejection of it in interpretations (e.g., the “transgender caveman,” Chap. 10). “While the bones do indeed speak, the context is integral to their story” (Chap. 11, p. 247). Thus, we argue that scholars must consider the context in which we present our findings, the tone in which we do so, the venue we use, and the potential for misinterpretations and appropriations. By holding ourselves accountable to address the simple question so what? in our research and publications, we may open more clear lines of communication with popular media and the public, as well as with funding agencies, and more easily and effectively convey the “big picture,” broader themes with which we should strive to grapple.

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Gertcyk, O. (2017, May 22). Tied up in his grave, the strange ‘dancing skeleton’ of Ust-Ivanovka. The Siberian Times. Gibbens, S. (2017, October 4). Could the remains of Santa Claus be in this Turkish church? National Geographic. Greshko, M. (2017, September 12). Famous viking warrior was a woman, DNA Reveals. National Geographic. Hassettt, B. (2017). Built on bones: 15,000 years of Urban life and death. Bloomsbury Sigma. Holtorf, C. (2005). From Stonehenge to Las Vegas: Archaeology as popular culture. New York: Altamira. Holtorf, C. (2007). Archaeology is a brand: The meaning of archaeology in contemporary popular culture. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, Inc. Holtorf, C. (2008). Academic critique and the need for an open mind (a response to Kristiansen). Antiquity 82, 490–492. Holtorf, C. (2017). The archaeology of time travel. In B.  Petersson & C.  Holtorf (Eds.), Experiencing the past in the 21st century (pp. 1–22). Oxford: Archaeopress. Howes, L. M. (2015). A step towards increased understanding by non-scientists of expert reports: Recommendations for readability. Australian Journal of Forensic Sciences, 47, 456–468. Howes, L.  M., & Kemp, N. (2017). Discord in the communication of forensic science: Can the science of language help foster shared understanding? Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 36(1), 96–111. Jones, D.  S. (2015). Death, uncertainty, and rhetoric. In C.  M. Cameron, P.  Kelton, & A.  C. Swedlund (Eds.), Beyond germs: Native depopulations in North America, Amerind studies in anthropology (pp. 16–29). Tucson: The University of Arizona Press. Klaus, H. D., Harvey, A. R., & Cohen, M. N. (2017). Bones of complexity: Bioarchaeological case studies of social organization and skeletal biology. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. Koff, C. (2005). The bone woman. New York: Random House. Kristiansen, K. (2008). Should archaeology be in the service of ‘popular culture’? A theoretical and political critique of Cornelius Holtorf’s vision of archaeology. Antiquity 82(316):488–490. Laqueur, T. W. (2015). The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. Long, C. (2014, August 3). Lindow man: Gruesome discovery who became ‘international celebrity’. BBC News. Manhein, M. H. (2000). The bone lady. New York: Penguin. Mann, C. C. (2005). 1491: New revelations of the Americas before Columbus. New York: Vintage Books. Maples, W. R., & Browning, M. (2001). Dead men do tell tales. New York: Broadway Books. Martin, D.  L., & Anderson, C.  P. (Eds.). (2014). Bioarchaeological and forensic perspectives on violence: How violent death is interpreted from skeletal remains. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Martin, D. L., & Harrod, R. P. (2015). Bioarchaeological contributions to the study of violence. Yearbook Physical Anthropology, 156, 116–145. Martin, D. L., Harrod, R. P., & Pérez, V. R. (2012). The bioarchaeology of violence. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. Martin, D. L., & Tegtmeyer, C. (Eds.). (2017). Bioarchaeology of women and children in times of war: Case studies from the Americas. New York: Springer. McAnany, P. A., & Yoffee, N. (Eds.). (2010). Questioning collapse: Human resilience, ecological vulnerability, and the aftermath of empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Meyers Emery, K., & Killgrove, K. (2015). Bones, bodies and blogs: Outreach and engagement in bioarchaeology. Internet Archaeology, 39. Open Access. Morris, A. G. (2012). Missing & murdered: A personal adventure in forensic anthropology. Cape Town: Zebra Press. Murphy, M. S., & Klaus, H. D. (Eds.). (2017). Colonized bodies, worlds transformed: Toward a global bioarchaeology of contact and colonialism. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. Nelkin, D. (1987). Selling science: How the press covers science and technology. New  York: W.H. Freeman & Company.


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Parker Pearson, M., Pitts, M., & Sayer, D. (2013). Changes in policy for excavating humans remains in England and Wales. In M. Geisen (Ed.), Curating human remains: Caring for the dead in the United Kingdom (pp. 147–158). Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer. Peters, H. P. (2013). Gap between science and media revisited: Scientists as public communicators. PNAS, 110, 14102–14109. Petersson, B., & Holtorf, C. (2017). Experiencing the past in the 21st century. Oxford: Archaeopress. Pinker, S. (2011). The better angels of our nature: Why violence has declined. New York: Viking. Ramos, M., & Duganne, D. (2000). Exploring public perceptions and attitudes about archaeology. Washington, DC: Society for American Archaeology. Reichs, K. (1997). Deja dead: A novel. New York: Simon & Schuster. Rhine, S. (1998). Bone voyage: A journey in forensic anthropology. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Robb, J.  (2002). Time, and biography: Osteobiography of the Italian Neolithic life-span. In Y. Hamilakis, M. Pluciennik, & S. Tarlow (Eds.), Thinking through the body: Archaeologies of corporeality (pp. 153–171). New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers. Robbins Schug, G. (2011). Bioarchaeology and climate change: A view from South Asian prehistory. Gainesville: University Press Florida. Saul, F. P. (1972). The human skeletal remains of altar de sacrificios: An osteobiographic analysis, Vol. 63, no. 2, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology Papers. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Saul, F.  P., & Saul, J.  M. (1989). Osteobiography: A Maya example. In M.  Y. Iscan & K.  A. R. Kennedy (Eds.), Reconstruction of life from the skeleton (pp. 287–302). New York: Alan R. Liss. Scheufele, D. A. (1999). Framing as a theory of media effects. Journal of Communication, 49(1), 103–122. Scheufele, D. A. (2013). Communicating science in social settings. PNAS, 110, 14040–14047. Slosson, E. E. (1924). Chats on science. New York: Century. Steckel, R. H., Larsen, C. S., Sciulli, P. W., & Walker, P. L. (2006). The global history of health project: Data collection codebook. Retrieved from module.htm. Steckel, R. H., Larsen, C. S., Sciulli, P. W., & Walker, P. L. (2009). The history of the European health project: A history of health in Europe from the late Paleolithic era to the present. Acta Universitatis Carolinae Medica, 156, 19–25. Steckel, R. H., & Rose, J. C. (2002). The backbone of history: Health and nutrition in the western hemisphere. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Stodder, A.  L. W., & Palkovich, A.  M. (2012). The bioarcheology of individuals. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. Surugue, L. (2017, May 18). ‘Hunchback of Torrenueva’ unearthed in Roman cemetery in southern Spain. International Business Times. Tegtmeyer, C., & Martin, D. L. (Eds.). (2017). Broken bodies. Broken bones: Bioarchaeological and forensic approaches to violence: The accumulative effects of repeated trauma and violence. New York: Lexington Books, Rowman and Littlefield. Ubelaker, D.  H., & Scammell, H. (2000). Bones: A forensic detective’s casebook. New  York: M. Evans and Company. Wells, H. G. (1895). The time machine. New York: Penguin. Yin, S. (2017, August 10). Bone’s marks suggest a cannibal ritual in ancient Britain. New York Times. Zimmerman, M. R. (2017). My patients were mummies. New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc. Zuckermann, M. K. (2014). Modern environments and human health: Revisiting the second epidemiological transition. New York: Wiley-Blackwell.

Chapter 2

Knowing Your Audience: Reactions to the Human Body, Dead and Undead Jane E. Buikstra

Introduction As we shall see in the following chapters, bioarchaeologists do have considerable material that can serve as a basis for speaking out on contemporary issues. Before starting to engage with these, however, there are other topics that require attention. Central to an effective message is knowing your audience and their prior perspectives on your subject matter. Therefore, this chapter will explore a number of seemingly unrelated topics that provide a background for public opinion today about bodies and their display in various contexts, many glossed under the heading “popular culture.” Legislation that affects the excavation, curation, and display of archaeological human remains in the UK and the USA will be reviewed in relationship to public opinion about bodies. This chapter will also consider a recently defined form of tourism, “dark tourism,” as a source of information about motivation for travel to sites that engage thoughts of death and dying. This effort does not seek to provide exhaustive treatments of these subjects. Rather, it is meant to introduce a range of relevant topics that will provide the reader an entry point for larger literatures. To begin this discussion, we consider the question, is there a universal reaction of humankind to corpses?

A Universal Reaction to Corpses and to Death? One of the most visible recent postmodern writers who has explicitly considered reactions to corpses is French psychoanalyst, critic, and author Julia Kristeva, whose Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection (1982; first published as Pouvoirs de l’horreur. Essai sur l’abjection 1980) has been widely cited: J. E. Buikstra (*) School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA e-mail: [email protected] © Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019 J. E. Buikstra (ed.), Bioarchaeologists Speak Out, Bioarchaeology and Social Theory,



J. E. Buikstra The corpse, seen without God and outside of science, is the utmost of abjection. It is death infecting life. Abject. (Kristeva 1982, p. 4) A decaying body, lifeless, completely turned into dejection, blurred between the inanimate and the inorganic, a transition swarming, inseparable lining of a human nature whose life is undistinguishable from the symbolic—the corpse represents fundamental pollution. A body without soul, a non-body, disquieting matter… (Kristeva 1982, p. 4)

Writing from a decidedly postmodern, Western, and psychoanalytic perspective, Kristeva characterizes corpses as abject, not due to their lack of health or poor hygiene but because they have disturbed “Identity, system, order…” and they are “... the in-between, the ambiguous, the composite…” (Kristeva 1982, p. 4). Recognizing the research of anthropologists such as Mary Douglas (1966) upon the subject of filth and purification, she critiques Douglas for “naively: rejecting Freudian principles” (Kristeva 1982, p. 66). Kristeva implies some developmental and/or cultural shading of the abjection argument, however, given that she links the superego to the abject, “To each ego, its object, to each superego, its abject” (Kristeva 1982, p. 2). The superego, in Freudian terms, develops early in a child’s ontogeny, during the first 5 years ( Kristeva’s viewpoint thus places the corpse in liminal, abject space, an object whose very existence excites emotion. But was dying, death, and the corpse always thus in the Western world? To understand the present and near past, we must delve further into attitudes about the body and its partner “soul,” the nature of whose existence was debated by early Greek philosophers, such as Socrates and his student Plato. It was this Hellenic concept that was integrated into Christianity, beginning in the first century of the Christian era (Porter 2003). Discussion begins with the general model provided by Philippe Ariès, a writer familiar to many who specialize in funerary archaeology.

Philippe Ariès The French medievalist and historian Philippe Ariès (1974, 1981) has written widely cited treatises on death in Western society, beginning with an Early Medieval baseline. He argues that during the millennium before the twelfth century AD, death was “tamed,” which meant that it was calmly accepted, a ritual organized by the imminent deceased that was open to friends and kin. All deceased Christians would welcome Christ’s coming at the end of the world and rise with him in apocalyptic triumph. In the meantime, the corpse and its soul slept peacefully within mausoleums or belowground graves. Changes in this attitude occurred, however, during the High Middle Ages, and by the Late Middle Ages, notions of the apocalypse gave way to the ominous Last Judgment, wherein one’s life would be deemed worthy or not. Thus, one’s life “flashed” before one’s eyes to set the narrative for empaneled

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justices. During this period, mortuary art included mummies and corpses, some in various stages of decomposition: The strong individual of the later Middle Ages … split into two parts: a body that experienced pleasure or pain and an immortal soul that was released by death. The body disappears, pending a resurrection that was accepted as a dogma but never really assimilated at the popular level. However, the ideas of an immortal soul, the seat of individuality, which had long been cultivated in the world of clergymen, gradually spread, from the eleventh to the seventeenth century, until eventually it gained almost universal acceptance. This new eschatology caused the word death to be replaced by the trite circumlocutions such as “he can up the ghost” or “God has his soul.” (Ariès 1981, p. 606)

The location of the separated soul excited considerable argument, as did the timing of judgment, whether immediately after death or as a delayed event, closer to the apocalypse. Prior to the apocalypse, however, the souls of those destined for heaven were forced to endure horrid punishments, while those destined for hell hastened thence. Curiously, the images of purgatory created in the eleventh to thirteenth centuries illustrated physically tortured individuals. Dante’s intricate early fourteenth-­century volume, Divine Comedy, also assumed a somatomorphic soul (Bynum 1995). During the later fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, however, the time of judgment moved closer to the time of death, with artists representing souls as children leaving the decedent’s mouth, to be snatched either by an angel or a devil (Ariès 1981). During the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries, artistic images of death, according to Ariès, took on an erotic tone. While earlier images maintained visible separation between the person and the beckoning apparition, during the sixteenth century, death sometimes “raped the living” (Ariès 1974, p. 56). Art and literature associated death with love. “Like the sexual act, death was henceforth increasingly thought of as a transgression which tears man from his daily life, from rational society, from his monotonous work, in order to make him undergo a paroxysm, plunging him into an irrational, violent, and beautiful world” (Ariès 1974, p. 57). Leading up to and including the nineteenth century, mourning became extravagant, mirroring an attitudinal change of increased apprehension concerning the death of others. Death continued to be omnipresent and was feared. Ariès characterizes the earlier evolution of attitudes as gradual and incremental. Within a few decades of the twentieth century, however, following biomedical advances, death commonly occurred in the hospital, presided over by medical personnel, perhaps including the closest relatives. Death was removed from daily life and thus became unfamiliar; the subject of death became taboo. Two themes relevant to attitudes about the corpse that are emphasized in both of Ariès’ volumes are (1) the sometimes-violent linking of the corpse and sex, which appears in the sixteenth century, and (2) the separation of the soul from the body. We shall return to these in section “Popular Culture: Late Twentieth and Early Twenty-­ First Centuries” as we approach twenty-first-century perceptions of and reactions to corpses and skeletons.


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The Pornography of Death Ariès (1974, 1981) was impressed by the development of an elaborate twentieth-­ century funeral industry in the USA. In explaining this phenomenon, he followed the argument posited by Geoffrey Gorer in his 1955 publication, “The Pornography of Death.” Recognizing obscenity as culture-specific but widely shared within a given culture, Gorer (1955, p.  49) opines that pornography, “the description of tabooed activities to produce hallucination or delusion, seems to be a very much rarer phenomenon.” A shameful or abhorrent subject becomes private fantasy, “charged with pleasurable guilt or guilty pleasure” (Gorer 1955, p. 50). He argues that because of its rare observation in mid-twentieth-century America, death had joined sex as pornographic material, with sex becoming less pornographic due to its increased visibility. Certainly, Ariès and Gorer gloss across time and considerable variation in human thought and customary behavior. One might ask whether or not modernity and death denial are universal in Western culture or perhaps across humankind. Answering this question has pitted sociologists such as Kellehear (1984, 2007) against anthropologists, for example, Becker (1973), whose perspective is heavily influenced by the work of psychologists and psychiatrists, Freud among them. Arguments have even been made that worldwide fear of contagion has stimulated a universal aversion to corpses (Boyer 2001, see also Beit-Hallahmi 2012). Rather than descending into these contentious arguments, here we will accept the general outline of Ariès and Gorer’s arguments to set the stage for our further consideration of the body and late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century popular culture.

 opular Culture: Late Twentieth and Early P Twenty-First Centuries Popular culture or pop culture is the entirety of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, images, and other phenomena that are within the mainstream of a given culture, especially Western culture of the early to mid 20th century and the emerging global mainstream of the late 20th and early 21st century. Heavily influenced by mass media, this collection of ideas permeates the everyday lives of the society. (, accessed 7-11-17)

Although I would normally eschew Wikipedia as a (cited) source of information, it seems remarkably appropriate when defining “popular culture.” Of course, as Parker (2011) reports in exquisite scholarly detail, the term actually has late eighteenth-­century German origins and multiple definitions, many of which breach the filmy boundary of the landscape inhabited by the politically correct. Therefore, this essay will consider popular culture or the “mainstream” ideas about the scholarly fields closest to bioarchaeology. It begins by reflecting upon the manner in which human corpses, skulls, and other body parts are imaged across late twentieth-

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and early twenty-first-century material culture and by contemporary media. It starts with the latter, as it relates directly to Gorer’s “The Pornography of Death.”

Memento Mori for the Twenty-First Century Did you know that a diamond-encrusted cast of an eighteenth-century skull sold for 50 million pounds in 2007? Entitled, “For the Love of God,” and covered with 8,601 diamonds (Fig. 2.1; Bryne 2007; Dorment 2007), this artistic expression by Damien Hirst invites the question, “Is this a reminder of our own mortality or rather a general, depersonalized statement about the commodification of death and its irrelevance in today’s society?” Answers lead to considerations of twenty-first-century popular culture, postmodern interpretations, embodiment theories, and religious beliefs, especially as they pertain to the afterlife. This essay will focus upon Western cultures. Certainly, images of skeletons are not new within the Western tradition. As Ariès (1974, 1981) points out, Late Medieval dances of death (or dances of macabre) also represented skeletons in highly visible displays that encouraged awareness of death and especially one’s own demise. Death, the great leveler, was always edging nearer. Religious practices permeated lives of rich and poor alike. During the sixteenth century, death was also linked with sex in artistic renderings, while the soul and body enjoyed a fraught postmortem relationship. In comparison with earlier images, however, such expense and personal (or at least corporate) ownership of Hirst’s masterpiece suggest that images of death have now become more individualized and commodified than during Late Medieval

Fig. 2.1  “For the Love of God” by Damien Hirst. © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS, London/ARS, NY 2017


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times. Hirst’s skull renderings certainly qualify as memento mori, although interpretations of the diamond encrustations of “For the Love of God” and the 2-week-­ old infant similarly immortalized as “For Heaven’s Sake” have been described in terms ranging from glorious to crass. Hirst’s comprehensive body of work, which includes both two- and three-dimensional installations, has positioned him, according to biographer Calvin Tomkins (2008, p. 1), as the “most famous living British artist.” Hirst’s frequent invocation of death themes, according to the artist, derives from a love of life that requires recognition of death, lest it become overpowering. As a premier member of the Young British Artists (YBAs), Hirst also embraces sensationalizing in art (Tomkins 2008). Hirst, responding to general criticism of his death imagery, including the diamond-­ studded skulls, is said to have remarked, “What’s the maximum I could do as a celebration against death? When you look at a skull, you think it represents the end, but when you see the end so beautiful, it gives you hope. Diamonds are about perfection and clarity and wealth and sex and death and immortality. They are a symbol of everything that’s eternal, but then they have a dark side as well” (Nikkah 2011). Hirst has clearly accessed multivocal imagery that resonates across space and through time; his dramatic images have thus entered the mainstream, popular culture. The popular culture of the early twenty-first century appears to have inherited a number of attributes from the late twentieth century, including attitudes shaped by forensic science and highly visible images of human skulls and skeletons in art and apparel. To explore these and related topics that may help us understand twenty-­ first-­century attitudes, we consider here the pervasive nature of death symbols, contemporary viewpoints upon the relationship of the body to the soul and the body’s role in resurrection, and partibility in the postmodern world. We close this section by reviewing the intimate relationship between corpse porn and sex.

Symbolic Skulls and Bones As Ariès (1974, 1981) and Gorer (1955, 1965) emphasize for the USA, during the twentieth century, death and attendant procedures moved from the family home and churchyards to the hospital, where medical specialists preside. This segmentation and myriad other social, economic, and political factors have led the sociologist and cultural theorist Jean Baudrillard to argue that during the twentieth century the dead ceased to exist (Baudrillard 1976/2017, p. 147). He goes further to argue that: Our whole culture is just one huge effort to dissociate life and death, to ward off the ambivalence of death in the interests of life as value, and time as the general equivalent. The ­elimination of death is our phantasm, and ramifies in every direction: for religion, the afterlife and immortality… (Baudrillard 1976/2017, p. 168)

In addition, Baudrillard concurs with Gorer (1955) and Ariès (1974, 1981) that in this twentieth-century transition, death becomes more pornographic than sex; “sex is legal, only death is pornographic” (Baudrillard 1976/2017, p. 204).

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Did this disappearance of the near ancestors behind the medical curtain and the relegation of the corpse to brief and individualized rituals erase the visible presence of death symbols? In fact, just the opposite has happened. Representations of death now appear everywhere. From Hirst’s multimillion dollar art installation to a $395 pair of shoes at Neiman Marcus adorned with skulls, tattoos on a remarkable variety of living human body parts, or a 2 dollar key chain sporting a skeleton, commercialized symbols of death are available year-round and especially at Halloween. Even the great twenty-first-century US tragedies did not extinguish symbolic death images. As the sociologist Kearl (2010, p. 8) observes “i[I]nstead of extinguishing the skull fad, the deadly terrorist attacks of 9/11/01 were shortly followed by an increasing ubiquity of skulls in both high and low culture.” Recently, Kearl (2015) has suggested that there are many possible reasons for this visibility: perhaps a confluence of influences so diverse as Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, maturing Goth culture aficionados, Halloween creep, increased Hispanic influence (Day of the Dead), and apocalyptic themes. Importantly, he argues that it is the commodification of the skull that has destroyed its “symbolic essence” and that the “meaningless skull … belittles the presences of the dead and averts any reflection on mortality and one’s humble place in the flow of generations” (Kearl 2015, p. 15). The fall 2017 release of Disney’s Coco, a computer-animated adventure fantasy that develops Hispanic Day of the Dead themes, with skeletons as main characters, serves to reinforce the popular nature of skeleton imagery. How is this visibility and commodification reflected in beliefs in the afterlife? Body and Soul/Resurrection and the Body As Ariès reported (1974, 1981), following the Late Middle Ages in Europe, resurrection became increasingly focused upon the soul. The earthly body, relegated to the graveyard and corruption, was of less concern. After nearly a half millennium, twenty-first-century US perspectives are much the same. Kearl (2010) reports that belief in an afterlife increased from 70% of the adults surveyed in the USA in 1991 to slightly more than 80% in 1998. A Pew Research Center report for 2014, however, indicates that Americans are becoming less religious, especially young adults. However, seven in ten believe in an afterlife and six in ten believe in hell. Jones et al. (2016), on the basis of a national survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), report that 24% of those surveyed reported no religious affiliation, including 38% of those 18–29 years of age when surveyed (2016). A recent Pew Research Center survey also indicates that increasing numbers of twenty-first-century Americans state that they are spiritual rather than religious (Lipka and Geceqicz 2017). Thus, it appears that people in the USA, while still religious, are becoming less so. However, belief in an afterlife continues to be prevalent. The manner in which the earthly body relates to the afterlife is not explicitly addressed in the PRRI and Pew surveys, however. A more useful but limited scale study of the University of Waterloo undergraduates surveyed postmortem beliefs in


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terms of consciousness, identity, and physicality (the body). Results indicated that there were in general low levels of belief in bodily resurrection; many believed that an individual’s earthly identity was maintained after death rather than both earthly identity and one’s body being resurrected. While this study cannot be generalized beyond Midwestern college students, it does support the idea that resurrection of the spirit/soul but not the body is a dominant religious belief among those surveyed here. Another indication that the condition of earthly remains is not important for the afterlife in contemporary Western society is the popularity of destructive mortuary treatments such as cremation. The numbers of cremations in the USA increased from 3% a half century ago to 14% in 1985 and 44% in 2015 (Cremationservices. com, accessed 9-10-17). Data published online by the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA, accessed 9-10-17, http://mediad.publicbroad healthnewsfl/files/201507/03-a_2014_cremation_and_burial_report) indicate that numbers of cremations vs. burial rates were roughly equal in 2014 (46.7% vs. 47.3%) and 2015 (48.2 vs. 45.8%) in the USA. NFDA projections for 2030 suggest that ~70% of American human remains will be cremated; the projected rate for 2030 in the USA approximates those for the UK, Australia, and Canada today. Partibility, Dividuals, and Postmodern Perspectives While members of certain minority faiths in the USA prohibit extractive or replacement medical treatments, for most, the removal of cataracts, appendices, female reproductive organs, and arthritic joints is an anticipated or at least accepted part of the aging process. Joint replacements and dental implants introduce inorganic materials to the body, while faces and hearts have been exchanged for those from deceased donors. Tissue engineering today is facing the challenge of growing various tissues in vitro while contemplating whole organ transplants. Similarly, procedures for altering malfunctioning DNA during fetal, infant, and early childhood development are being developed. Seldom does the human body enter the grave without deletions or additions. For postmodern writers such as Bogard (2008), the mutability of the dead and living is nothing new in humankind’s history. Bogard envisions our social evolutionary history as having begun with “symbolic” societies wherein the dead and the living are interchangeable. Bodies move without restriction between human and nonhuman forms as they cycle through this and other worlds. At the end of the eighteenth century, however, technical societies emerged, wherein the dissected corpse becomes a source of knowledge and “biopower” (sensu Foucault 1975). Bodily forms are normative and variability is limited. Bogard (2008) argues, however, that in the twenty-first century there is a postmodern return to limitless variability, as medical intervention focuses upon DNA and the very building blocks of humankind. Screening and manipulating DNA have replaced corpse dissection as the source of power. Further, he argues that, “the postmodern dividual is designed to adapt to all of the accelerated demands of consumer society, to the swiftly changing

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imperatives of global labor, to media polls and information bottlenecks, to shifting patterns of global exchange, in short, to all of the new forms of sovereignty …” (Bogard 2008, p. 198). Thus, genetically modified dividuals or enhanced cyborgs may be our twenty-first-century conspecifics. Particularly relevant to the dead body’s place in public awareness is Bogard’s (2008, p. 198) claim that: The trajectory of biopower in the last century has curved away from the dead body, which has begun to lose its fascination for us along with its utility as a source of knowledge, value, and power. Power today is power over birth, and the new forms of sovereignty will take advantage of all of the current developments in bio-informatics, recombinant genetics, stem cell technologies, and parametric control to extend its reach.

As biopower shifts to the early part of the human lifespan, will fascination with bodies be so prominent in popular culture? Or will images of infants replace skulls and mummies in the public eye? Will Damien Hirst’s “For Heaven’s Sake” become more popular than “For the Love of God?”

Corpse Porn and Sex According to Ariès (1974, 1981), the Late Middle Ages presented images that linked sex and the dead visually and in the written word. Pornography about death was to have replaced sex during the twentieth century, linked to modernity (sensu Baudelaire 1863, see also Berman 2010). Many, though not all, late twentieth-/early twenty-first-century interpretations of popular culture and the corpse are focused through a postmodern lens. Foltyn (2008a, b, p. 154), a social scientist, reports that she has “been studying representations of death since 1993, and while deliberation about death is nothing new, in the last several years I have noticed something that is: the corpse count is up.” Setting out to update Gorer (1955), Foltyn (2008a, b, pp. 164–165) argues that “the new pornography of death is as grief-gutted as the old, but dazzles the audience with its shocking corpses, flashy forensic science, and exotic causes of death that are far removed from most people’s experiences… Yes, death is the new sex and never more so than now, when death has not merely supplanted sex as a cultural taboo, as Gorer wrote, but merged with it.” Reflecting upon widely available images of the dead, Foltyn (2008a, b, p. 167) concludes that, “[c]orpse porn and sex porn have much in common. Both exploit the nude, young, and beautiful, not the clothed, old, diseased, and ugly.” While a systematic review of late twentieth-/early twenty-first-century pornography to evaluate Foltyn’s assertions is far beyond the scope of this paper, there is one venue where audiences find visual access to dead bodies on a regular basis: the forensic television shows Crime Scene Investigations (CSI) and Bones. The original CSI, also termed CSI: Las Vegas, was televised from 2000 to 2015. It spawned three televisions spin-offs: CSI: Miami (2002–2012), CSI: New York (2004–2013), and CSI: Cyber (2015–2016). Bones (2005–2017), featuring as its lead character


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Temperance Brennan and drawn from a series of fictional forensic mysteries by forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs, was the longest-running series on Fox TV by the time of its final season, ending in 2017. Public reaction to these shows was varied. Certainly, millions watched. However, the Parents Television Council rated CSI among the top ten worst shows for the following seasons: #7, 2001–2002; #1, 2002–2003; #5, 2003–2004; #5, 2004–2005; and #1, 2005–2006. They regularly discussed CSI content: 2002-2003: A series about crime scene investigators is bound to deal with some distasteful subjects. But C.S.I. takes it a step further by providing graphic depictions of decaying bodies, grisly crime scenes, brutal murders, and themes of incest and sado-masochism… This season, episodes of C.S.I. have included story lines about cannibalism, S&M sex clubs, and pornographic snuff films. Episodes this season have also contained scenes depicting a man receiving oral sex in an alley, the mutilated victims of a deranged killer, and a man in bed with two women. (PTC website for 2002–2003)

For the 2005–2006 season, PTC reported that for CSI: With each passing season, the storylines become more outrageous and horrifying. Every possibly sexual deviancy and kinky fetish has been explored. In addition to close-ups of corpses, young viewers have been witnesses to cannibalism, scenes of a brother and sister having sex, men receiving S&M beatings from a dominatrix in a sex club, a woman making a sex video for her 15-year-old stepson, a wife-swapping sex party, a case at a mental hospital that revealed a twisted relationship of mother-son incest, a man dying from autoerotic asphyxiation and a plot involving a special Las Vegas luxury “party bus” in which men were entertained by strippers. Clearly none of this content is appropriate for children, and yet millions tune-in, week after week. (PTC website for 2005–2006)

Thus, it would appear that Freud and Foucault’s linking of sex and death (Encyclopedia of Death and Dying, accessed 9-14-17 (http://www.deathreference. com/Py-Se/Sex-and-Death-Connection-of.html) has continued to be played out in twenty-first-century media. Interestingly, the CSI cluster and Bones were removed from the airways within a few years of one another. The CSI: Cyber series did not last as a possible replacement. Bioarchaeologists will want to monitor the degree to which the demise of these series reflects a diminished interest on the part of the public in dead body pornography or whether artistic representations will continue to link sex and corpse porn in some previously underexposed form of titillating entertainment. If we are to see fewer dead bodies and forensic scientists in the popular media, perhaps due to public disenchantment with law enforcement, science, and the government’s inability to protect against terrorism and natural disasters, what bodies might Western audiences find more enchanting? Likely candidates include the undead, notably vampires and zombies. These two creatures have very different histories, of course. Vampires emerged from Eastern Europe in their modern form with nineteenth-century novels by Polidari (1819) and Stoker (1897). With modernity, the vampire has emerged as suave, urban, sexy creature with proclivities that extend far beyond exsanguination (Bishop 2010; McIntosh and Leverette 2008). The visible linkage of sex and death has sustained periodic visibility since the six-

2  Knowing Your Audience: Reactions to the Human Body, Dead and Undead


teenth century; the sustained numbers of vampire movies during the early portion of the twenty-first century may bear witness to another resurgence. Zombies, on the other hand, have no literary tradition, coming to global attention following the US’s occupation of Haiti (1915–1934) (Platts 2013). With origins in the Western Hemisphere, the zombie initially appeared in movies as an individual, controlled by outside forces. This change, however, with Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (Streiner and Romero 1968), which assembled zombies into groups with predatory instincts. Zombie movies were popular between 1968 and the early 1980s, when spoofs such as Michael Jackson’s Thriller (1983) began removing the protagonist’s power to horrify (Bishop 2009, 2010; Dendle 2012). Only since 9/11 has there been a “zombie renaissance,” with renewed zombie presence and vigor (Bishop 2009). Explanatory speculation abounds, including renewed primal fears of contagion, gore, body parts, and “the other.” Tension “between the moral complexity in the postmodern world… and a dark, primeval urge to destroy” (Clasen 2010, p. 19) is also cited. Dendle (2012) argues that survivalist tendencies are evoked in apocalyptic settings common to zombie movies, whether urban or more frequently in rural settings. Researchers argue that zombie movie popularity increases predictably in times of social upheaval and wars, as illustrated in Fig. 2.2, which charts US tumultuous events against numbers of zombie movies (Newitz 2009, p. 16). Bishop (2010, p. 29) summarizes zombie appeal in the following statement: The zombie functions primarily as a social and cultural metaphor, a creature that comments on the society that produced it by confronting audiences with fantastic narratives of excesses

Zombie Movies 35

Civil Rebellion


Economic Recession

Foreign Military Development

Graphic by Stephanie Fox •

Disease Epidemic Iraq War


Global Recession Rise of the AIDS epidemic

25 Prague Spring

French May

US anti-war protests

20 Height of US involvement in Vietnam War


World War II Sputnik Launched


Great Depression



1910 1915 1920 1925 1930 1935 1940 1945 1950 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010

Fig. 2.2  This graph, created by Stephanie Fox and published by Newitz (2009), demonstrates the notable correlations between spikes in the popularity of zombies in pop culture and episodes of political or social upheaval


J. E. Buikstra and extremes. By forcing viewers to face their greatest fears concerning life and death, health and decay, freedom and enslavement, prosperity and destruction, the zombie narrative provides an insightful look into the darkest heart of modern society as it is now or as it might quickly become.

Of the undead bodies currently figured in popular media, it appears that zombies will doubtless have the greatest near-term appeal due to their association with times of social, political, and economic tension, as well as their appeal to right-wing political sympathies. They evoke a multivalent reaction that includes cognitive dissonance, a mixture of awe, curiosity, anxiety, and terror that may threaten twenty-first-century worldviews (Clasen 2010). As such, the zombie may therefore become a point of departure for bioarchaeological discussions of epidemic disease and the human response to mass disasters. The “uncanny valley,” a concept drawn from robotics (Mori 1970/1978), is relevant to our discussion of interactions with the undead, as well as the dead. Mori (Fig. 2.3) demonstrated that the closer a nonhuman representation, such as a stuffed animal, a robot, or a prosthetic hand, comes to looking human, the viewer’s initial affinity turns to revulsion. The effect is magnified if activity is involved, such as a zombie producing an exaggerated response when compared to an inert dead body. Thus, the humanlike quality of a play station zombie may be desirable, while more distance would optimize the efficiency of a robot on the assembly line. Public fascination with zombies and the more general desire for emotionally challenging experiences in safe spaces has received considerable attention from psychologists who advance physiological explanations for emotions. These range from those that emphasize the release of hormones to more general cerebral reac-

Uncanny Valley +

Moving Still

Healthy Person Humanoid Robot


Stuffed Animal Industrial Robot

Human Likeness


50% Corpse

Prosthetic Hand


Fig. 2.3  The “uncanny valley,” adapted from Mori (1970/1978), represents the area in which humanoid objects begin to elicit feelings of eeriness and revulsion in observers

2  Knowing Your Audience: Reactions to the Human Body, Dead and Undead


tions to horrifying experiences. Such sources of psychological horror may come from various sources, including the CN Tower EdgeWalk in Toronto; the Fuji-Q Highland, Japan, roller coaster; and the ScareHouse in Pittsburgh, PA, as sociologist Margee Kerr (2015) reports in Scream: Chilling Adventures in the Science of Fear.

Dark Tourism to Sites of Death, Disaster, and the Macabre Is Dark Tourism OK? This was the question posed in National Geographic on April 29, 2016, by their “Digital Nomad of Intelligent Travel” Robert Reid. He concluded that dark tourism was OK, depending upon the tourist’s motives. The answer may not be that simple, as it involves considering matters of dignity for the places and subjects visited, as well as the motives of those promoting dark tourism. However, given the popularity of dark tourism and its intersection with our research programs and sites, as bioarchaeologists, we should ask why people visit such dark places, some having traveled vast distances for the opportunity to see bodies and bones or places where natural or human forces had wreaked havoc upon members of our species. Perhaps this knowledge will help us “speak out” more effectively, addressing public interests and concerns. Here we consider this nascent field, its growing pains, and its promise for explaining tourist motivations for visiting “dark” locations. This sinister sounding endeavor, newly branded as “tourism at sites of death, disaster, and the seemingly macabre” ( groups/institute_for_dark_tourism_research.php, accessed 9-2-17; Stone 2006, 2011a, b, c), in fact is not a new phenomenon, but extends back through centuries of pilgrimages to sites of human tragedy. Hooper and Lennon (2017, p. 1) remind us that dark tourism: … in fact has a long history. Most commentators on dark tourism point to tourists from an earlier era, who were just as vulgar and tactless as any other travellers, and just as easily attracted to salacious thrills and excitement. Education or self-improvement were hardly evident in visits to see slaves fight to the death in the coliseum, to watch public executions and punishments in early modern England, to gawp at figures in asylums such as Bedlam or to look at sites of disaster where people drowned, were burned or fell to their deaths. It is difficult to interpret these impulses as more than the simple gratification of curiosity or, should we wish to put a more profound metaphysical gloss on it, for the purposes of considering their own mortality. Dark tourism has always existed in some form or other. What did not exist was the term itself, the marketing that has now grown up around it, the academic discourse such as we are presently engaged in and, most of all, the acceptance of the term into common usage.

Dark tourism is a brand promoted and studied by the Institute for Dark Tourism Research (IDTR), founded in 2012 at the University of Central Lancashire. Unsurprisingly, media coverage by the BBC (Coughlin, April 24, 2012) cited the topical focus as sites of “death, brutality, and terror,” which reinforces Seaton and


J. E. Buikstra

Lennon’s (2004) assertion that the press typically overplays violence and thus links death tourism with social pathology. The IDTR has assumed the mantle of “a world-leading academic centre for dark tourism scholarship, research and teaching” (IDTR website, accessed 8-30-17). Its stated goals include: … shin[ing] a critical light on dark tourism activities. In so doing, our research can help provide a lens through which life and death may be glimpsed, thus revealing relationships and consequences of the processes that mediate between consumerism, heritage, and the tourist experience. Our research also aims to reveal the dynamics through which people are drawn to sites redolent with images of death, as well as the manner in which they are induced to behave there. (IDTR website, accessed 8-30-17)

Certainly, the IDTR is not the first UK institution to focus upon death as a social phenomenon. The University of Bath’s Centre for Death and Society was founded in 2005 and headed by Tony Walter, “the world’s only professor of death studies,” from 2011–2015 (U of Bath website, accessed 8-30-2017). In the USA, the legacy of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s On Death and Dying (1969) has led to considerable research, coursework, and institutions dedicated to death studies. The focus upon the study of dark tourism, however, seems to be a British phenomenon, fairly recently developed (Hartmann 2014). The IDTR’s definition of dark tourism, cited above, has to do with travel to sites of death or disaster, where horror may be evoked due to the gruesome nature of the death-related phenomena. The term appears to have originated with a theme issue of the International Journal of Heritage Studies (Foley and Lennon 1996), where a prefatory editorial and articles by Foley and Lennon, Seaton, and others established the brand. The subsequent Lennon and Foley book, Dark Tourism (2000), has popularized the term and extended its audiences, both within academic circles and beyond (Stone and Sharpley 2009). Detractors argue that this definition is ambiguous, rendered so by the addition of the term “macabre,” which makes the definition unclear, context-specific, and not universal. Light (2017) opines that the term “macabre” was added in order to include anomalous entities such as Gunther von Hagens’s Body Worlds, Dracula-associated locations, and Cold War statues, which are not explicitly linked to death per se but can be glossed as “dark.”

Studying Dark Tourism Other concerns regarding this emerging field of research are just what is to be studied and how. As expected in a new field, effort has been placed upon defining the units of study, contrasting the features of alternative destinations with the motivations for tourism. Some authors characterize these in terms of supply and demand, with dark tourism focused upon the supply side (Seaton and Lennon 2004; Stone 2006; Light 2017). In an attempt to categorize destination types (supplies), Dann (1998), Stone (2006), and Stone and Sharpley (2009) report various schema. Stone’s is particularly inclusive, attempting to sort sites in degrees from “dark” to “light,”

2  Knowing Your Audience: Reactions to the Human Body, Dead and Undead


thus avoiding the obvious, problematic light-dark dichotomy. If not dark, is the remainder of tourism “light?” What is light tourism? Another significant question is whether or not “dark tourism” is so amorphous that other terms, more focused and limited in scope, might be more useful and amenable to study. For example, working from an explicitly postmodern perspective, Rojek (1991, 1993), in a chapter on “fatal attractions,” argues that, “Fatality is a striking feature in the landscape of postmodernism.” He then identifies four meta-­themes that facilitate the classification of late twentieth-century “escape areas organized around spectacle and sensation” (Rojek 1991, p. 188). “Black spots” are the first of these, defined as “the commercial developments of grave sites and sites in which celebrities or large numbers of people have met with sudden and violent death” (Rojek 1991, p. 188). The three additional meta-themes are heritage sites, literary landscapes, and theme parks. Rojek’s work has been criticized as being postmodern, ahistorical, and eclectic (Seaton 2009). Foley and Lennon (1996; Lennon and Foley 2000) also accept postmodernity as the context for dark tourism, although their theoretical focus is less extreme. Other postmodern perspectives link dark tourism to a postmodern world fraught with ontological insecurity (Giddens 1991), where death is privatized, spatially and ritually constrained, and medicalized (Mellor 1993; Mellor and Schilling 1993). This sociological assertion echoes aspects of Ariès (1974, 1981) and Gorer’s (1955, 1965) arguments concerning the segregation of death and pornography. Stone and Sharpley (2008) emphasize the paradox between the personal sequestration of death and quotidian media representations, both real and fictional, and argue that their research: has suggested that consuming dark tourism can help individuals, within a social structure, to address issues of personal meaningfulness—a key to reality, thus to life and sustaining social order, and ultimately to the maintenance and continuity of ontological security and overall well-being. It is with this latter point in mind that dark tourism may have more to do with life and living, rather than the dead and dying. (Stone and Sharpley 2008, p. 590)

While Rojek’s postmodern orientation is clearly ahistorical, others have recognized that there are indeed ancient roots for travel to and gathering at places of death, disaster, and the macabre, but they assume dark tourism today is a separate phenomenon. Accepting the Ariès/Gorer assertion that death is hidden and remote today, these scholars argue that death tourism has indeed become an effective mechanism for mediating between dead and the living (Stone 2011a, b, c). Alternatively, Seaton (2009) argues that while observations made by Ariès and Gorer applied to the mid-twentieth century, death has become more accessible and familiar since that time. Today we have hospices, self-generated rituals of death, and general public ownership of death. “The truth may be that death is less absent than it has ever been from everyday life, but it is only holidays that provide leisure and the thinking space to engage in the reflections that may be precipitated by visits to memorials, churchyards, and heritage sites” (Seaton 2009, p. 536). Historical elements that Seaton (2009, pp.  534–535) believes crucial for twenty-first-century death studies include Christianity’s focus on fatality, antiquarianism’s construction of national heritage, and Romanticism’s impacts on individual subjectivity.


J. E. Buikstra

Seaton (1996, 2009) has also explicitly offered pointed critiques of the term “dark tourism.” He argues for a different term, thanatourism, defined as tourism in contemplation of death, which is frequently linked to but not identical to dark tourism. “Thanatourism” avoids three of the problems commonly encountered with such terms as dark tourism and black spots. Seaton (2009) argues that thanatourism is inclusive, it lacks the baggage of dark tourism, and it avoids a postmodern bias. Thanatourism is behavioral, flexible, and not evaluative (Seaton 1996). Given its obvious relationship to death studies and its more focused subject matter, thanatourism circumvents the ambiguity introduced by “macabre” included within Stone’s definition of death tourism. Most dark tourism studies have focused upon the supply side of the equation, attempting to define and categorize destination sites. As Jamal and Lelo (2011, pp. 31–32) note, the term [dark tourism] “continues to remain poorly conceptualised, both with respect to the concept of ‘darkness’, and with respect to visitor motivations and experiences”. Most attempts to inquire about motivation have engaged small convenience samples, and analyses have been limited in scope. Wight (2006) emphasized this concern in an overview of death tourism wherein he called for quantitative approaches. Empirical, quantitative studies can explore important issues, especially those requiring complex models and comparative analyses. For example, Biran et al. (2014) have studied the degree to which the motives for tourists’ visits to Auschwitz were different from those of tourists at other types of sites. Following a sophisticated quantitative analysis, the authors concluded that these “dark” tourists were no different from those touring other heritage sites. The need for similar testing in other contexts is obvious, as the degree to which dark tourism should be considered distinctively different from heritage tourism is quite important. On the other hand, Biran et al. (2014) study of a post-disaster context in Sichuan, China, suggests that contrary to the general understanding that tourists wish to avoid post-disaster situations, “newly emerging dark attributes” may motivate them to visit the site (Biran et al. 2014, p. 17). Mortality-related motives are quite important, including both push and pull factors. However glossed, dark tourism and thanatourism are phenomena that have increased markedly in visibility, both in mainstream Western popular culture and in academic circles. Importantly, dark tourism is frequently promoted and evaluated in terms of emotion, individual self-discovery, and awareness of death. Bioarchaeologists are well advised to monitor the manner in which travelers’ interests in sites of death are characterized by various publics and how their experiences might affect how we present our conclusions about the dead to general audiences.

Posthumous Personhood in the Digital Age Those writing about Body Worlds, including von Hagens himself, seem to believe that Western body disposal forms are only two in number: burial and cremation. Von Hagens argues that he is adding a third form through plastination. Through the

2  Knowing Your Audience: Reactions to the Human Body, Dead and Undead


magic of polymers, an individual may achieve anonymized bodily immortality, thus avoiding an incremental loss of individuality by rotting in the grave. As we have also seen, instant reduction via the furnace is an increasingly popular alternative in the West. Other individuals, not so concerned with bodily immortality, have focused upon their names or pictorial representations. In the latter category, traditional forms of immortality include portraits, photographs, and statues. A few may have a building, a neighborhood, a road, or a taxon named after them. But the twentyfirst century has brought with it further options by which we may leave residues of various forms, to be honored, resurrected, or perhaps stored with the other remnants of ancestors that will linger, fading into the dark corners of our closets and our minds. Lifton (1979; see also Meese et al. 2015) speaks of five modes of immortality: biological, theological, creative, natural, and transcendence. Of these, the most relevant are the first three; recognition that the natural world will maintain or entering a transcendent state is less commonly referenced in popular culture. None of these forms, however, take advantage of twenty-first-century media technology. The Facebook application allows one to leave post-death postings, and someone can be designated to manage one’s account following death (Meese et  al. 2015; Walter 2015). Furthermore, the funeral industry appears threatened by businesses such as LivesOn, which create professional video productions that integrate images and interviews with the living before death occurs. O’Neill (2008) argues that such dynamic video streams, available from professionals or interested individuals, will represent a more attractive option for “taming death” than the stark funeral home with its mute corpse. O’Neill (2008) also opines that such biopics may increasingly remove immortality and the afterlife from the distant other world to the familiar world in which the ancestors lived. The place of the soul in all of this remains ambiguous, as does the degree to which these media productions will provide immediate revisionist histories of colorful lives. As Aceti (2015) cautions, such representations risk becoming simulacra (sensu Baudrillard 1981) as they construct and memorialize personal narratives. “LivesOn” also promises to use artificial intelligence to sift your previous tweets to create a post-death presence that conforms to your own persona (Meese et  al. 2015; Aceti 2015). Their motto is “When your heart stops beating, you’ll keep tweeting” (, accessed 9-17-17), and they vow to keep parents’ memories alive and to preserve one’s own legacy for the future where one may “live on forever as a digital avatar.” For those whose concept of physical immortality is not satisfied by postmortem tweets, professionally produced life histories, or personal, immortal avatars, there are other options, including cryogenic alternatives. For example, Alcor Life Extension program, based in Scottsdale, AZ (, accessed 9-17-17), offers freezing of either the whole body or head/brain of an individual who has been declared legally dead. As of August 30, 2017, Alcor had 152 “patients” and 1151 members. Annual fees plus a onetime preservation fee assure that the individual will be frozen until a time that a cure for the cause of death has


J. E. Buikstra

been discovered. Alcor considers their procedures an intervention in the death process, such that the soul will still be with the body during the period the individual is cryopreserved. Lohmeier et al. (2015) report that among Germans, a belief in the afterlife is negatively associated with an individual imagining that they would be cryopreserved following legal death. A web survey suggests that there are one Russian and three US companies that store bodies and/or brains/heads through cryopreservation procedures: Alcor Life Extension Foundation, the American Cryonics Society, the Cryonics Institute, and KrioRus.

Displaying, Curating, and Studying the Dead Funerary archaeology is not a dangerous topic; rather it makes a very real and valuable contribution to modern society, providing one of the few ways that people can experience a corpse and so explore their own mortality and with it their place within the larger human story (Sayer 2010, p. 481). It seems then that it is museums or archaeologists, not the public or society at large, who may be accused of stigmatizing death with taboo (Sayer 2010, p. 489).

Amply documented are the varying attitudes about displaying, curating, commodifying, glorifying, stigmatizing, and studying the dead human body across prior millennia. Western cultures have exposed, mutilated, and dissected criminal corpses, with bodies of the elite sequestered for elaborate rituals, including mummification and autopsies (Ariès 1974, 1981; Marshal 1995; Porter 2003; Richardson 2000, 2006; Sappol 2002). For example, in Late Medieval to Renaissance Northern Italy, dissecting criminals or “others” to teach about anatomy and disease was comment, while autopsies—with individual or familial assent—yielded medical knowledge from the corpses of the elite (Park 1994, 2006). More recently, the intellectual elite of Paris formed the Société d’autopsie mutuelle (Society of Mutual Autopsy, constituted October 19, 1876). Lasting into the twentieth century, this society was dedicated to encephalic autopsies of its members, with results occasionally published in scientific journals (Hecht 2003). By the middle of the nineteenth century, systematic anatomical knowledge had accumulated along with cabinets of curiosities, which gave way to systematic collections, including human remains actively traded across districts and continents. The twentieth-century museums in Europe and North America were rapidly becoming engorged with vast ethnographic, natural historical, and archaeological collections that represented the colonial power and accumulating wisdom concerning humankind’s past. During later twentieth-century postcolonial times, power over one’s ancestors became a political weapon, wherein vast cultural differences, including those relating to mortuary customs and ancestorhood, became subsumed by the disenfranchised and the colonial powers alike. Laws mandating repatriation of human remains, burial accompaniments, and sacred objects were promulgated in the USA, coupled with provincial mandates in Canada (Buikstra 2016).

2  Knowing Your Audience: Reactions to the Human Body, Dead and Undead


 ncestral Bodies: Federal Laws and Human Remains A in the USA The Museum of the American Indian Act (MNMA Act, H. R. 2688, passed by the 101st Congress of the USA in 1989) provided for both the handsome museum on the mall as part of the Smithsonian Institution (SI) and also directed the SI to “1) inventory Indian human remains and funerary objects in the possession or control of the Smithsonian; and (2) identify the origins of such remains and objects using the best available scientific and historical documentation” (https://www. bill/101st-congress/house-bill/2668. accessed 9-18-17). Thus, human remains identified as a specific individual were to be returned to kin, and tribes culturally affiliated with remains and funerary objects (associated or unassociated) were to be notified by museums of their holdings. If the remains and/or funerary objects were requested for return, then they would be de-accessioned and returned to the tribe. Funded by the US federal government, the SI has an efficient and effective repatriation office that fully documents remains and funerary objects prior to repatriation. Of the approximately 19,000 remains subject to the NMAI Act, prior to August 16, 2017, 4408 remains have been returned, and 1765 are fully documented and ready for tribal decisions about disposition (Bill Billeck, personal communication, August 16, 2017). A repatriation committee, as specified in the NMAI Act and appointed by the secretary of the SI, provides oversight for the repatriation activities of the SI at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH). The National Museum of the American Indian conducts repatriation activities independently. Enacted on November 16, 1990, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), Public Law 101-601, 25 U.S.C. 3001 et seq., 104 Stat. 3048, required the return of human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony. Such cultural objects held in museums and other institutions receiving federal funds are also subject to NAGPRA. As the vast number of the institutionally held cultural objects cannot be readily affiliated with individual tribes, Regulation 43 CFR 10 has specified the manner in which unaffiliated cultural objects are to be repatriated [, accessed 9-18-17]. NAGPRA represented an attempt to balance the opinions of Native Americans and archaeologists, who vociferously opposed 43 CFR 10 due to the inclusion of ancient, precontact materials. As of September 30, 2016, the following have been repatriated: Human remains: 57,847 individuals Associated funerary objects: 1,479,923 (includes many small items, such as beads) Unassociated funerary objects: 243,198 (includes many small items, such as beads) Sacred objects: 5,136 Objects of cultural patrimony: 8,130 Objects that are both sacred and patrimonial: 1,662 (, accessed 9-18-17)

A database maintained by the Department of the Interior reports 60,587 Native American human remains and 1,418,795 associated funerary objects inventoried by


J. E. Buikstra

museums and federal agencies other than the Smithsonian, which is covered by the NMAI Act. Culturally unaffiliated Native American remains number 133,127 and associate funerary objects 1,146,493 ( index.htm, accessed 9-18-17). Since 1990, NAGPRA and the NMAI Act have encouraged increased consultation with tribes, and productive, collaborative research projects have ensued (Killion 2007). An example of this from the southwest involves scholars hired by the Hopi tribe to explore their history through data from oral traditions, archaeology, ethnography, ceramics, and textiles. The authors (Ferguson 2013, p. 104) used “a model of ethnogenesis that theorises Hopi ancestry as a dynamic and complex braided river channel of historical social relationships rather than a static cladistic dendrogram of branching archaeological cultures.” While fewer US studies of this type have included skeletal remains, bioarchaeologists Walker (2002) and Reinhard (2000) have addressed questions of interest to the tribes, such as the nature of traditional diets and testing the physical implications of contrastive tribal oral histories and travelers’ accounts of warfare frequency. Canadian Susan Pfeiffer and the Huron-­Wendat tribe have formed one of the most productive North American collaborative bioarchaeological research programs (Pfeiffer and Lesage 2014; Pfeiffer et al. 2016). A series of ongoing projects have focused upon Huron-Wendat health and disease. In addition, archaeologists Ronald Williamson and Pfeiffer have collaborated with the Six Nations Council of Ohsweken to excavate, study, publish, and rebury a threatened ossuary of thirteenth-century Iroquoian remains from the Moatfield Ossuary (Wiliamson and Pfeiffer 2003). Efforts at standardization (Buikstra and Ubelaker 1994; Osteoware []) have benefited the repatriation effort, although the number of scholars focused upon bioarchaeology study of US contexts has decreased. Tensions remain, however, particularly in relationship to human remains research. The Kennewick controversy (Buikstra 2016; Owsley and Jantz 2002, 2014; Rassmussen et  al. 2015) was finally settled, with the ~9,000 BP human remains buried by a coalition of five Columbia Plateau Native American tribes at an unknown location ~20 years after the remains were discovered eroding from a river bank (Spokesman Review, Feb. 20, 2017, accessed 9-18-17). Another, more recent contretemps has erupted over human remains from Chaco Canyon. Nine skeletal remains from the Chaco site, curated the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), served as the basis for a paleogenetic analysis published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications (Kennett et al. 2017). The AMNM had fulfilled NAGPRA requirements by notifying tribes of their collections during the late 1990s. However, as Balter (2017a, p. 3) observes, “the question remains whether it fulfilled the law’s spirit of respect for tribal cultural traditions.” Tribes are reported to be angry because the researchers, who include a number of prominent archaeologists, did not consult prior to destructive DNA analysis. This study has clearly increased tensions between a number of Native American communities and scientists, including archaeologists (Balter 2017a, b; Bower 2017).

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Museum Displays of Human Remains in the USA Archaeological human remains are being observed, however, in twenty-first-­century North America. For nearly 5 years (February 7, 2009–January 5, 2014), although originally planned for only 1.5–2 years, the NMNH exhibit, Written in Bone, attracted nine million visitors to learn about forensic anthropology methods for investigating present and past human remains (Written in Bone: Forensic Files of the 17th-Century Chesapeake Exhibition). These forensic methods were then applied to seventeenth-century Americans of European heritage. Contexts represented by skeletal remains included Jamestown, VA; St. Mary’s City, MD; and Leavy Neck, MD. The forensic anthropology laboratory has now moved into the NMNH’s Q?rius education space, where it attracted 70% of the student participants in 2016 (Nicole Webster, personal communication, September 20, 2017). A website, an informative book appropriate for grade school students, and a webcomic (http://anthropology., Costello and Bliton 2009) have also been developed in association with the exhibit. Evaluations of the webcomic, an educational visual storytelling approach, indicate that, “this visually rich, educational experience is instructionally effective, engages the digitally savvy youth of today, and is surprisingly of interest to audiences over forty five” (Costello and Bliton 2009, p.  1). Between 2009 and 2016, this comic was visited more than one million times (Costello, personal communication, September 20, 2017). A recently updated webcomic, The Secret in the Cellar, is now available. Bones primarily of Europeans and Euro-Americans are also on display at the Mütter Museum, whose displays highlight human variation, pathological and anatomical. Wax models and antique medical equipment, along with images related to the goals of the museum, are also included in the collections and displays. With a core set of displays and financial support donated by medical doctor and surgeon Thomas Dent Mütter to the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the museum originally served medical doctors and students. As medical education moved into the university, the Mütter focused upon the history of medicine, hosting ~3000 visitors per year until the 1970s when it began to capitalize upon its bizarre examples of pathology and human variation. Attendance thus grew to ~40,000 annually by the late 1990s. Today, the museum hosts in excess of 130,000 visitors annually (http://, accessed 9-19-17). “Disturbingly informative,” as the Mütter Museum styles itself, the displays have evoked a number reactions from lay viewers. Reporting on 80 interviews conducted in 1999–2000, Jones (2002, 2007, 2011) learned that not only did the Mütter exhibits educate and amaze, but they also caused reflection and thoughtful responses from the public. According to Jones (2002, p. 143), visitors to the Mütter came “away with reflections on the quality of life of deformed or disabled people, statements about the advancements of medicine, and thoughtful comments on the value of medical displays of extreme pathology in the twenty-first century.” A survey of Facebook posts reflects more learning and awe than reflection, but that is the nature of FB. Clearly a large number of people enjoy visiting the Mütter,


J. E. Buikstra

with a major response being that the museum is “cool.” As with Body Worlds, the visitors were disproportionately upset by fetal and infant remains, frequently presented floating in glass containers. International concerns for repatriation and the display of remains have been raised, for example, at the World Archaeological Congress (WAC) and Inter-­ Congresses. The tangible outcomes of discussions led to the “Vermillion Accord” directed at the disposition of all mortal remains, worldwide. Adopted in 1989 by a WAC Inter-Congress in Vermillion, South Dakota (USA), it called for equal treatment of all remains and for descendent and scientific communities to respect one another. This was followed by the “Tamaki Makau-rau Accord,” which was proposed in November 2005, at an inter-congress in New Zealand and adopted by the WAC Council in January 2006. This accord recommends that exhibits of human remains and sacred objects can proceed only with permission from affected communities, and it reaffirms the need for ethical standards among scientists and for mutual respect. A code of ethics adopted during 1990 by the WAC Council emphasizes consultation with and respect for indigenous peoples.

Ancestral Bodies: Laws and Repatriation in the UK In the United Kingdom (UK), issues of repatriation have developed slightly more recently than in the USA, and the situation there is somewhat different due to the nature of collections subject to repatriation requests and the relevant laws. In the UK, repatriation requests also reflect a colonial experience, but such collections are much smaller in proportion to the historic and prehistoric remains held in national and private institutions. There are various estimates of the numbers of human remains held in the UK. Approximately 60,000 were reported to the government in the course of a national survey. Collation with other information suggests that certainly 80,000 (Roberts and Mays 2011) and perhaps as many as ~113,000 human remains are curated in a variety of UK institutions, with approximately 90% having been accumulated from excavations in the British Isles. By the early twenty-first century, 33 requests for repatriation had been received from Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand, and North America (Giesen 2013a, b; Palmer 2003). Until the Human Tissue Acts (2004, 2006), the nine national museums of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales could not legally de-accession or repatriate human remains. Prior to that time, these institutions had routinely denied repatriation requests. During July of 2000, Tony Blair and John Howard, the then prime ministers of Britain and Australia, agreed to encourage the repatriation of Australian aboriginal remains. This set in motion the formation of the “Palmer Committee,” a working group established by the UK Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport during 2001 (Palmer 2003). Although the first report, lacking significant scientific and indigenous input, was argued to be biased against scientific study and to have produced a process that was overly complex to the point of being unworkable (Chalmers, Minority Report, Chap. 13 of Palmer 2003), a second docu-

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ment generated in 2004 (Guidelines on Care and Treatment of Human Remains held by British Institutions) weighed community and scientific voices appropriately. It recommended that temporal thresholds of 300 (unlikely to repatriate) and 500 (ultimate threshold) years before present be used for considering repatriation (Clegg et al. 2013). In the meantime, the UK was also reacting to a scandal over concerns that the Bristol Royal Infirmary and the Royal Liverpool Children’s Hospital (Alder Hey) were retaining tissues, including those of children, without appropriate permissions. More generally, issues about the unauthorized retention of brain tissues also emerged. Inquiries suggested that this was a widespread problem and that the previous nineteenth- and twentieth-century laws governing the retention of tissues required replacement. Thus, the 2004 Tissue Act tightened regulations, with an emphasis upon permissions. It also contained a section permitting all national museums, excepting Scotland, to de-accession. Scotland was legally able to do so in 2006 (Clegg et al. 2013). The 2004 Tissue Act virtually ensured that anatomical collections would not be expanded. In addition, the Ministry of Justice issued regulations that required licenses for excavations of burials of any age. Initially, reburial within 2 weeks was required, though this has been extended to 2 years with extensions possible. Screens were required to shield site visitors from viewing burial excavations, which led to such incongruous events as Stonehenge burial excavations being shielded from nonspecialist eyes while the same events were being captured on film for international distribution (Parker Pearson 2016; Parker Pearson et al. 2013). In 2001, a Human Remains Working group  was organized by the Church of England and English Heritage, a registered charity that cares for over 400 historic buildings, monuments, and sites (, accessed 9-20-17). This led to a document published in 2005, with a 2nd edition, Treatment of Human Remains Excavated from Christian Burial Grounds in England, now available (Mays 2017). An advisory committee, the Advisory Panel on the Archaeology of Burials in Britain, begun to offer guidance only upon the excavation of Christian burials (>seventh century BCE) but now is a group willing to advise on both general casework and policy. Christian remains that are over 100 years old and not claimed by descendants may be excavated professionally, either due to potential destruction or for scientific purposes, pending a plan of action that includes excavation, study, and curation. Remains less than 100 years old are subject to the Tissue Act of 2004. Contractors are required to pay for mitigation, study, and final disposition—either reburial or curation. Redundant churches strike a suitable balance between access for study and sacred premises (Mays 2013, 2017). During June 2006, English Heritage and the National Trust received a request from Paul Davies, who represented himself as the reburial officer of the Council of British Druid Orders (CoBDO). Davies asked for reburial of prehistoric human remains located at the Alexander Keiller Museum at Avebury. As the CoBDO website indicates (, accessed 9-20-17), Davies did not have the authority to represent the CoBDO, but there are certain points of agreement between Davies and the CoBDO. The CoBDO, stating


J. E. Buikstra

boldly that, “everybody knows what a human skeleton looks like,” argues that the remains should be reburied, perhaps in a vacuum-sealed container somewhere on site, and a 3-D image placed in the museum. In response to the Davies inquiry, English Heritage and the National Trust engaged in thorough review of the request, including DCMS criteria for repatriation/reburial requests, the relative benefit for all stakeholders in reburying the remains, and public opinion of about the retention and display of remains in museums. A draft report and pro forma questionnaire (Thackray and Payne 2009) were placed on the English Heritage and National Trust websites between October 2008 and February 2009. Following this review of responses from 73 groups and 567 individuals, a substantial report (Thackray and Payne 2009) recommended against reburial. While the responders were obviously self-selected, the results indicated that 89% of individuals and 81% of groups responding agreed that the remains should remain in the museum. Activist Druid groups such as “Honouring the Ancient Dead” (HAD) argued against this decision, citing the need for ongoing “respectful interaction” with the personhood of the remains following death (, accessed, 9-22-17). English Heritage also sponsored an opinion survey conducted during 2009 by ICM Research, a polling firm. A nationally representative sample for England was asked about (1) archaeological exhibits in museums displaying human bones and (2) the retention of human bones in museums for future research. As can be seen in the following figures, most individuals surveyed supported the display (87%) and retention for study (90%) of human remains in museums. Similar numbers supporting the excavation and retention of human remains have been reported among the citizenry of Oakington (UK) (Sayer and Sayer 2016) and for those visiting the Lindow Man display at the Manchester Museum (Manchester Museum 2009; Sayer and Sayer 2016) (Figs. 2.4 and 2.5).

Displaying Human Remains in the UK Displays of human remains have proven popular in the UK.  The Surgeons’ Hall Museums of Edinburgh reopened to the public in 2015, following a major redevelopment effort (, accessed 9-22-17). In London, the Wellcome Museum of Anatomy and Pathology is currently closed for full renovations, reopening in autumn, 2020 (, accessed 9-22-17). Prior to closing for renovations, between July 23 and September 28, 2008, the Wellcome Museum hosted Skeletons: London’s Buried Bones, an exhibit that included 27 (including a fetus) remains from the Museum of London’s collections, dating from the Roman period (~200–400 AD) through the nineteenth century. Basic data describing context, age at death, biological sex, and pathology were provided for all remains, also appearing in a durable exhibit booklet. Arnold (2008, pp. 6–7), head of public programs for the Wellcome, introduced the popular exhibit.

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Fig. 2.4  Results of the 2009 English Heritage survey “Research into Issues Surrounding Human Bones in Museums,” carried out by BDRC, demonstrating the British public’s opinion of displaying human remains in a museum

“Skeletons is about how the scientific study of bones can add to rather than detract from our emotional encounters with this material. It deals with aspects of London’s history that mostly remain invisible just metres beneath our feet as we stand in a car park in Merton or next to the City’s ‘Gherkin’ building. And finally, it is an unashamed flirtation with the enchanting idea that we are inextricably connected to thousands of earlier Londoners who lived, died and were buried in this great city.” The remains were displayed in anatomical position inside plain wooden cases with a clear cover that allowed the visitor to view them from the top and all sides. Feedback from 754 visitors was generally positive (94%), with only nine individuals reporting that they were bored or disappointed by the exhibit (Aldous and Payne 2009). This response led Redfern and Bekvalac (2013, p.  26) to conclude that, “These findings not only confirm the popularity of bioarchaeology in the public imagination but further support the retention, research and display of human remains in institutions.” Instead of a dry recital about the methods osteologists use for estimating age at death, sex, and pathological condition, the booklet includes an interview with the Museum of London’s Centre for Bioarchaeology staff members Bill White and Jelena Bekvalac. In closing the interview, Bekvalac was asked (Sargent 2008, p. 31), “Does it ever feel weird, to be surrounded by skeletons?” The charming response


J. E. Buikstra

Fig. 2.5  Results of the 2009 English Heritage survey “Research into Issues Surrounding Human Bones in Museums,” carried out by BDRC, demonstrating the British public’s opinion of keeping human remains in a museum for research purposes

was, “Strangely no, I find them rather comforting! You do get to know them very well and you do get very caught up with them. Particularly with the ones you record, you start to feel quite protective about them. I love skeletons in fact—they’re so much nicer than living people!!!” The Museum of London had also mounted an exhibit of human skeletons during 1998–1999. The director, Simon Thurley, in his foreword (Werner 1998, p.  9), emphasizes that the display spoke to many important issues about the development and spread of bone diseases, thus providing lessons not only in social science but also medical science. “Like all good history it is as much about the present as the past.” The accompanying booklet is organized chronologically, speaking primarily to health and pathological conditions. Stature is referenced as a measure of health, as is longevity. Swain (2016, p. 171) reports that 15,600 visitors came to the Museum of London specifically to see London Bodies: The Changing Shape of Londoners from Prehistoric Times to the Present Day. Reflecting upon the experience, Swain (2016), a member of the staff, reports that, when mounting the display, the main concern was not offending the public and that only later did the rights of the remains issue emerge. Following nearly two decades of reflection, Swain (2016, p. 29) concludes that, “When you have spent too long trying to understand the complexity of a subject, a point will come where you try to understand it very simply. For me it is

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clear. First, and for very obvious reasons, human remains have no inherent rights and are not inherently sacred (or for that matter scary). They are inanimate and any properties they have are applied by the living.” I will not comment here upon this assertion, as I have indeed imbibed the postmodern Kool-Aid and argued for postmortem agency (Buikstra 2016). Another review of visitor response was conducted by Kilmister (2003) for three UK museums holding Egyptian mummies and other remains. Of 300 individuals surveyed, 82.5% thought that the museums should be allowed to do whatever they wanted with the remains, with education and respect mentioned. From this discussion, it is clear that displays of human remains are quite popular with the public in the UK and the USA. As Sayer (2010) emphasizes in the opening epigraphs, there are good reasons to excavate and interpret human remains. While bioarchaeologists must comply with the law, there is no reason for them to assume guilt and resist speaking out from their informed perspectives. Communication with the public and with descendent groups is to be encouraged; heritage is always approached with response, and all people—living or dead— should be treated with dignity.

Body Worlds The corpse is also on display as perhaps an emotionally evocative or titillating presence in Gunther von Hagens’ Body Worlds exhibit, wherein plastinated and dissected bodies and body parts are displayed. An earlier statement of goals used the term “edutainment” (Guyer 2007, p. 30), but criticism and legal expediency have changed the emphasis. Today, the Body Worlds website ( mission _exhibitions.html, accessed 9-14-17) reports that: The primary goal of BODY WORLDS is health education. On the one hand, individual specimens are used to compare healthy and diseased organs, i.e., a healthy lung with that of a smoker, to emphasize the importance of a healthy life-style. On the other hand, life-like posed whole-body plastinates illustrate where in our bodies these organs are positioned and what we are: naturally fragile in a mechanized world. Thus, the exhibitions are targeted mainly at a lay audience to open up the opportunity to better understand the human body and its functions. The exhibits help the visitors to once again become aware of the naturalness of their bodies and to recognize the individuality and anatomical beauty inside of them.

As reported in Science (Bohannon 2003), von Hagens’ initial interest in improving anatomical specimen preservation and heuristic value drove him to experiment with polymers. By 1980, von Hagens, with patents in hand, started a company that rapidly excited interest among a group of anatomists who formed the International Society for Plastination (ISP, formed 1986) that is distinct from von Hagens’ Institute for Plastination (IFP) and his more recently formed Gubener Plastinate GmbH, with its Plastinarium in Guben/Brandenburg, Germany. Another production


J. E. Buikstra

plant, plagued by early twenty-first-century notoriety, exists in Dalian, China. Concerned about issues of advised consent and the plastination of unclaimed Chinese bodies and/or those of “criminals,” von Hagens’ current literature states the facility today is dedicated solely to preparing animal cadavers. According to one narrative, von Hagens experienced an epiphany in 1988 when he saw a member of the janitorial staff entranced by plastinated body parts. Facing the challenge of whole-body plastination, he opened a small display in Tokyo, Japan, which proved to be remarkably successful, with a viewership of more than 400,000  in 2 months (1996). The exhibit then moved to the science museum in Mannheim, Germany (1997), where 24-h access was required to accommodate the eager crowds (Bohannon 2003). Subsequently, the plastinated bodies of humans and animals that have been presented to over 40 million viewers in more than 100 cities from four continents (Asia, Europe, Africa, and America) have enjoyed ongoing controversy and popularity. There are now six different Body Worlds exhibits with human health themes, which include cardiology and the heart (BODY WORLDS & The Story of the Heart); human development, longevity, and aging (BODY WORLDS & The Cycle of Life); the body’s capability and vitality (BODY WORLDS Vital); the story of the human body in the twenty-first century (BODY WORLDS: Pulse); the influence that “happiness” has on our health (BODY WORLDS: The Happiness Project); and the prescription for a healthy life (BODY WORLDS RX). A seventh exhibit, Animal Inside Out, which involves a variety of animals, including a giraffe, an Asian elephant, a shark, and a gorilla, is also touring. Unsurprisingly, given the high visibility, the international audience, and the commercial nature of the venture, visitor response has been measured and reported. For example, Leiberich et al. (2006) described the results of a survey of 1078 visitors to an exposition in Munich during 2003. Approximately 94% argued against prohibiting the exhibit. Most, 81.4% visited the exposition to learn more about anatomic structure and function of their own bodies, 86.4% considered this accomplished. Many, 49.8% visitors also felt disturbed. About 74.5% named curiosity as their motive. At least, 40.6% were led to reflect on their own mortality. In total, 42.6% resolved to pursue a healthier lifestyle. (Leiberich et al. 2006, p. 567)

A more recent survey was conducted in the Berlin Menschen Museum, where the first permanent display of plastinated bodies and body parts has been mounted by the IFP (Fonseca and Finn 2016). Approximately 200 human remains are displayed there in “Facets of Life,” much as in the traveling exhibits. Fonseca and Finn (2016) addressed specifically the issue of anatomical knowledge gain by the nonspecialist viewer. Pre- and post-visit written examinations of 331 participants led the researchers to conclude that there was indeed a statistically significant increase in anatomical knowledge on the part of the viewing public. The British viewership’s experience with dead bodies was quite limited when Body Worlds arrived in London’s Atlantis Gallery for a March 2002–February 2003 engagement (Walter 2004a, b). While European anatomy museums remain open, the mid-nineteenth-century UK saw them restricted to medical doctors and students, excepting London’s Hunterian Museum of Comparative Anatomy. In

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p­ arallel, ­public viewings of the corpse, either at a wake or during a funeral ritual, are found rarely, most commonly among religious minorities. Yet over 850,000 people viewed the London exhibit of Body Worlds, whose closing date was postponed several times. Controversial at the time were artists, such as Hirst, along with medical misuse of tissues at the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital (Clegg et al. 2013). A perceived need for control of human tissues of all people, both modern and ancient, led to the Human Tissue Act of 2004 (see section “Displaying, Curating, and Studying the Dead”, below) and the establishment of a licensing body, the Human Tissue Authority. Interestingly, the impending Human Tissue Act increased publicity for Body Worlds and led von Hagens to stage a public autopsy that was also televised (November 20, 2002, Channel 4). Open to the public, as autopsies had been between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, the event received ~2000 requests for the $19 ticket. This open public access is part of von Hagens’ attempts to “democratize” anatomical knowledge. Of those visiting the London Body Worlds exhibit, 62% favored the autopsy and 32% said that they would like to attend (, accessed 9-16-17). Aside from UK governmental oversight, protests by individuals also drew attention to the London 2002 Body Worlds exhibition. Feminist Amanda Wilson stripped naked to protest the absence of female reproductive organs highlighted in the exhibit. Another viewer, a male artist, attempted to cover a plastinated pregnant woman and subsequently staged a public demonstration. A hammer attack is also reported ( statements/ pressemeldungen_statements_2002.html, accessed 9-16-17). Walter (2004a, b), following review of viewers’ remarks in the guest book on-­ site (700) and via the web (1500), as well as interviews with visitors (7) and prospective body donors (4), reports that overall, visitor responses in the UK were positive. Both fascination and repulsion were reported, with the basis for the latter involving the poses of the figures, the presence of fetuses and infants, and surface-­ individualizing features such as tattoos and fingernails. In a study complementing that of Walter, vom Lehn (2006) scrutinized video recordings of people interacting with the plastinated bodies to explore the nature of this interaction and the knowledge gained. The results of this research indicate that viewers consistently relate the body to their own experience, with smoking, with surgeries, and with headaches. von Hagens argues that access to Body Worlds will break down the dichotomy between the clinical perspective of the medical practitioner and her patient. While the so-called clinical detachment of the medical professional, especially during anatomical dissections, may be overdrawn (Montrose 2007), it is clear that relationships are built between the plasticized bodies and the lay public as Body Worlds is experienced. Despite concerns expressed over the Tissue Act’s ability to limit future Body Worlds exhibits in the UK, applications to the Tissue Board were successful in both Manchester and London for exhibitions launched in 2008. Stone (2011a, b, c) has reported on a limited scale participant observation followed by semi-structured


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interviews of a convenience sample of 17 visitors to Body Worlds and the Mirror of Time in London between April 20 and 22, 2009. The results are cast into the postmodern framework of dark tourism (see section “Dark Tourism to Sites of Death, Disaster, and the Macabre”). Similar to the results from Leiberich et al.’s (2006) study in Munich, respondents were stimulated to consider shifting to a healthier lifestyle and to consider their own mortality, along with that of others. Similarly, positive surveys are reported by Lantermann (2005) and by Whalley (2005) in von Hagens’ exhibit volume, Body Worlds: The Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies. On the continent, a Body Worlds exhibition in France, having attracted ~145,000 viewers in Lyon and Marseille, fared less well in Paris. A judge, arguing that the cemetery was the legal place for a dead body, gave the exhibit 24 h to close before significant fines would be imposed (Chrisafis 2009). A longer discussion of the Paris closure (Charlier et al. 2014) identifies the following as key issues: • • • •

An attack on human dignity of the individual Failure to document informed consent Commercialization of the bodies The displays neither qualified as art or science

As we shall see, such concerns also color the US experience with Body Worlds. North American visitors have reacted with both awe and anguish. Similarly, scientists and humanists, in a themed issue of the American Journal of Bioethics (AJoB 2007), clearly expressed both admiration and disgust. The “target” AJoB article by Canadian Lawrence Burns states in fairly measured terms his concerns about the educational value of the exhibit, especially the manner in which its organizers and curators protect human dignity. Burns (2007, p. 12) argues for certain modifications in order for the educational value not be overcome by “competing artistic, entertainment, and commercial goals.” His suggestions appear to him relatively minor, e.g., placing the bodies in a manner that emphasizes the viewer’s access to anatomical knowledge and reduce the dramatic effect, individualizing or personalizing the body in some manner that still protects anonymity, and removing von Hagens’ name from advertisements and his signature from the cards describing each of the full body representations. He also argues that the plastinates should not be used indefinitely and should be subject to a form of disposal appropriate for human remains. In an article on dignity, a fraught topic for bioethicists, published a year later, Burns (2008, p. 192) remarked that “Canada’s research ethics guidelines avoid the temptation of reducing biomedical ethics to the legalistic, rights-based paradigm prevalent in the US and complements other foundational ethical principles such as autonomy, personal integrity and vulnerability.” We suspect he is reflecting upon the response to his thoughtful reflections upon von Hagens’ exhibitions. Of the 13 AJoB reviewers, 4 were vociferously against Body Worlds. Tanassi (2007) argues that the Los Angeles California Science Center’s (CSC) Ethics Advisory Committee (EAC) did not thoroughly vet the degree to which each cadaver in the display represents an individual who could be associated with an informed

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consent document. The Ethics Advisory Committee was satisfied, though Tanassi was not, that the donor forms existed, the very anonymity assured each donor limiting an ability to engage in a one-to-one matching exercise. Guyer (2007) on the other hand, an immunologist by training, was simply incensed by the egregious disrespect for the dead. She argues that, “death and burial are ‘givens’ of the natural world” (Guyer 2007, p. 31). (A social scientist would have trouble accepting this generality.) Similarly, Allen (2007) is appalled at the display she states is an affront to human dignity. She argues that, “The dead are dead, but human dead, death, and memory merit treatment of a sort that is fundamentally violated by von Hagens’ plastination project” (Allen 2007, p. 24). Wassersug (2007), focusing upon von Hagens’ arguments concerning the educational value of the exhibit, argues that no research to date demonstrates that those who view Body Worlds are more enlightened than they would be if plastic models had been used. He also finds the exit interviews suggestive but without properly rigorous research designs. Jones (2007, p. 41) also emphasizes the need to evaluate the manner in which the “viewers understand and give meaning to visual objects.” Those favoring von Hagens’ exhibitions are a little more reserved in their tone than those against. Even so, Burns is chided for elitism (Jones and Whitaker 2007; Maienschein and Creath 2007; Myser 2007) and for having an outdated conception of museums (Myser 2007; Youngner 2007). In a historical treatment, Jones and Whitaker (2007) provide contextual detail (see also Walter 2004a) that also places von Hagens’ 2002 public autopsy (London) in perspective. McCullough (2007) argues that another positive message missed by Burns is that stripping away the individualizing flesh creates the unifying humanity that is required for clinical reasoning and treatment. The bottom line, as argued compellingly by Tenebaum and Taranto (2007), is the legal one for which Burns (2008) lacks enthusiasm. There has been increased late twentieth- and twenty-first-century emphasis upon the individual when considering dignity. Thus, if the individual has made an informed legal decision, then that should be honored. In the USA, all 50 states have adopted a version of the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA), which privileges individual rights above those of relatives. Individuals may therefore authorize retention of their cadavers for education, research, therapy, and transplantation (Tenebaum and Taranto 2007). Thus, von Hagens’ access to both cadavers and to exhibit space would appear to hinge upon the argument for Body Worlds as education. No doubt this has affected von Hagens’ shift from Body Worlds as “edutainment” to “education.” So, what are we as bioarchaeologists to take away from this tangled web of reactions to Body Worlds? First, most of the public find displays of human bodies ­interesting. Second, there will be a vocal minority who are incensed that any human tissue is within view, whether or not it can be avoided by individual choice. The decibel level of such individuals should not be allowed to overwhelm majority opinions. Third, the issue of dignity is frequently raised in discussions about human tissue display. This is a fraught issue and one that bioarchaeologists should consider carefully when presenting materials about formerly living individuals and their bodies.


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Concluding Comments The universal significance of the human corpse has recently been reinforced by American historian Thomas Laqueur (2015), whose The Work of the Dead has achieved popular acclaim, including the 2016 Cundill Prize and favorable review in the London Review of Books (Warner 2017). His lengthy tome argues that: … the dead body matters, everywhere and across time, as well as in particular times and particular places. It matters in disparate religious and ideological circumstances; it matters even in the absence of any particular belief about a soul or about how long it might linger around its former body or about what might become of it after death; it matters across all sorts of beliefs about an afterlife or a God. It matters in the absence of such beliefs. It matters because the living need the dead far more than the dead need the living. It matters because the dead make social worlds. It matters because we cannot bear to live at the borders of our mortality. (Laqueur 2015, p. 1)

Laqueur’s volume and its popularity illustrate the ongoing appeal of the corpse to the living. The challenge for bioarchaeologists speaking to the public is to represent scientific study in a manner that is responsible and engaging. This chapter has considered the manner in which nonspecialists have and continue to react to corpses on display and in popular culture. Such knowledge becomes important background to our representations when “speaking out.” As explored in this chapter, people in the USA, the UK, and Europe respond to the study and display of human remains through attitudes shaped by a number of factors. Although religion appears in general to be a diminished twenty-first-century contribution, the devout may worry about resurrection and assert—as did Guyer (2007)—that burial is the desirable procedure for all corpses. As we have seen here, however, while the soul continues of central concern, the body figures less heavily in twenty-first-century concepts of the spiritual afterlife. The degree to which religious beliefs explain reactions to displays of bodies and bones is, however, underexplored. Results from a 1997–1998 survey of 2000 visitors to a Body Worlds exhibit at the Mannheim (Germany) Museum for Technology and Labor discovered that the religious visitor’s experience was not identical to that of others less devout but that their evaluation of the exhibit overall was generally similar (Lantermann 2005). The degree to which this observation may be generalized remains unknown. Popular culture perspectives on the body are framed in large part by the media. Today, Foltyn’s (2008a, b) observation about corpse counts being elevated appears apt. How the diminution in forensic sciences television programing reflects public attitudes toward seeing and learning about the body is unknown, although there is good promise for representations of the undead across media formats. Perhaps other forms of death and body-related simulacra (Baudrillard 1981) will also emerge. The fate of “dark tourism” as a field will also bear watching as it forms and is transformed by the promotion of sites associated with death, dying, and the macabre. Similarly, the degree to which Seltzer’s “wound culture” (Seltzer 1998; see also Penfold-Mounce 2010) and Gorer’s “corpse porn” are characterized by twenty-first-­ century historians as twentieth-century constructs is subject of interest, incompletely revealed at this time.

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Another unresolved issue is the degree to which those attending exhibits that include bodies and body parts could be equally well-informed by plastic models. While this is asserted by Wassersug (2007), Whalley’s (2005, p.  301) surveys of Body World visitors in Osaka, Japan; Vienna, Austria; Basel, Switzerland; Cologne, Germany; Brussels, Belgium; London, England; Munich, Germany; and Hamburg, Germany revealed that “an overwhelmingly large majority (on average 72%) of those interviewed found it important that the individual exhibits consisted exclusively of authentic human specimens.” While authenticity seemed to be of less importance in another German science museum context where bodies were not the subject of interest, Hampp and Schwan (2015) emphasize that surprisingly little research has been directed at this issue. The insistence of Oakington, UK, visitors (90%) to view burial excavations directly (Sayer and Sayer 2016) and the remarks of one Mütter visitor who, when queried about significance remarked, “Yeah, and they’re real,” (Jones 2002, p. 129) provide anecdotal support for authenticity in the display of bodies (Jones 2002, p. 129). In general, it appears that less than 10% of visitors to museum displays of archaeological human remains in the UK and USA have reacted negatively (see section “Corpse Porn and Sex” above), with the overwhelming majority being positively disposed. It is also clear that certain traditional descendent groups, including American Indians, prefer that consultation occur prior to study and display of their ancestral remains. When timely and open communication occurs, meaningful collaborations have developed. As Sayer (2010) emphasizes, however, it should not be assumed that the public opposes the study and even the display of human remains. The information presented in this chapter clearly supports this assertion. The manner in which the public views the body, in displays or as a source of knowledge, as represented here is important for bioarchaeological efforts to engage public interest. In conclusion, we return to the Kristeva (1982) epigraphs cited at the beginning of this chapter. The corpse, she says, is the ultimate in abjection, when considered outside religious or scientific spheres. It is non-us, and by this entity, we are defined. When the corpse as non-us is presented, it recalls that ultimate and inevitable boundary whose crossing erodes and erases all self and identity. How abject, how disgusting—when viewed without God and outside science! As we have seen in this chapter, the Western belief systems surrounding the afterlife have diminished the body’s importance, and human remains are increasingly destroyed rather than buried. It thus falls to scientists, including bioarchaeologists, to understand and ­appreciate the public’s response to corpses—both emotional and inquisitive—and to inform in ways that honor, respect, and illuminate the dead.

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Chapter 3

Bioarchaeological Evidence for Prehistoric Violence: Use and Misuse in the Popular Media R. C. Redfern and L. Fibiger

Introduction Bioarchaeologists studying violence in the past have demonstrated that certain fracture types and weapon injuries can provide insight about gender and status hierarchies and responses to catastrophic events and, perhaps most importantly, that violence enacted at the individual level may be connected to violence perpetrated by a society’s organizing structures (e.g., intimate partner violence, structural violence). Bioarchaeology thus shines a light on the dark side of our ancestors. Such research has always fascinated the public; however these results are now entering the digital world of the early twenty-first century, where expertise often is viewed with skepticism, and anti-science arguments have assumed prominence among the public and in political discourse. Thus, it is even more critical that the language we use to talk about the remains of past people in nonspecialist contexts is accessible and unambiguous, avoiding the frequently convoluted qualifying statements so common in scientific discourse. Bioarchaeologists must appreciate that our research now has multiple audiences, all coexisting, which include our academic colleagues, the media, and the myriad of online spaces created by the public. Specialists employed in the contemporary heritage sector and in academia today find themselves operating in a new working environment, whereby social media and online content provide greater engagement and dialogue with the general public and other stakeholders (e.g., community groups) than ever before. For the most part, this is a welcome and beneficial development, enabling research to be more widely disseminated. It also provides the opportunity for research to be shared using apps, R. C. Redfern (*) Centre for Human Bioarchaeology, Museum of London, London, UK e-mail: [email protected] L. Fibiger School of History, Classics and Archaeology, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK e-mail: [email protected] © Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019 J. E. Buikstra (ed.), Bioarchaeologists Speak Out, Bioarchaeology and Social Theory,



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online streaming of events, and online courses. The public also is able to quickly and easily contact the authors of a publication, and if the research is picked up by news outlets or other platforms, to comment publically on the research. This situation represents a change from the nineteenth and most of the twentieth centuries, when the public often did not directly engage with or have the opportunity to challenge a specialist’s expertise or status as knowledge-holder. Beginning with a brief historical treatment, we argue here that both the accuracy of reporting and the audience-language-content relationships are crucial in developing twenty-first-century bioarchaeology’s public face, while remaining a rigorous scholarly discipline. Using examples drawn from the representations of violence and individuals who died violently, we illustrate these points. We begin by considering a case where the evidence about violence in humankind’s past has been misused. This is followed by a discussion of the way in which the prehistoric/historic dichotomy has influenced perceptions of violence in the past. We then present a series of case studies that further illustrate the problems faced when presenting evidence of violent acts in popular and scholarly writing. Finally, we close by noting briefly a newly developed aspect of violence research, recreational studies.

 rchaeology, Heritage, and Popular Culture: Who Is A the Expert? Beginning in the nineteenth century, archaeologists held preeminent and crucial roles in creating and sharing knowledge about antiquity. In Europe during the Victorian period, the first public museums were designed to provide the public with the “right” and “correct” interpretation of the past. Such interpretations typically were shaped by a white male elite, influenced by broader social and political biases, in order to create a narrative that emphasized broad, “correct” notions of national identity, status, gender and racial hierarchies, and colonial authority (among others, Henare 2005; Marstine 2011). Though museums continue to be seen as expert knowledge holders who can tell “the story” of a period or event, these narratives have changed, particularly from the 1960s with the restitution of Indigenous rights and the development of multiple narratives in displays (Marstine 2011), also with the opening of Indigenous museums, such as Finnish Sámi Museum in 1959 (e.g., Levy 2006) and the National Museum of the American Indian (2004). Further, decreased public funding in recent years has caused a shift toward creating a self-­inscription visitor experience (e.g., decreasing linear narratives and increasing emotive experiences) in order to compete with other entertainments (Witcomb 2003; see also de Groot 2016). Public interest in choices about how to access knowledge, or in which expert tells the story in the most interesting way, has increased in recent years in part because of archaeology’s prominence in the media. In Britain, features/documentaries or professionals have appeared on television from the early 1950s onward. Most famously, an episode of “Animal, Mineral or Vegetable” included Profs. Glyn Daniel, Gordon Childe, Seán P. Ó Ríordáin, and Sir Mortimer Wheeler

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( Subsequently, this role broadened to include those working in universities, commercial archaeology, and within the wider field of heritage. Since the 1990s, the Internet has provided a space for anyone to share or discuss their “knowledge” or “truth” about the past, a trend that has left the academic versus popular history debate in the dust (Clack and Brittain 2016). For the majority of people, at least in the UK, knowledge about the past is shaped by the school curriculum until the compulsory study of history is finished in their teens (Merriman 2017). After that, new knowledge is shaped by media choice and whomever is designated “an expert” (Nichols 2017; see also Muckle 2017); that is, if the public decides it is important to them at all (!Archaeology and history are now well beyond fact and evidence. They are now bound up, explored, and used by a myriad of popular culture outputs, something de Groot (2016) calls “historiocopia”, to denote the many ways history is consumed in popular culture. Unfortunately, factually flawed treatments of bioarchaeological information have entered studies of violence, as illustrated in the following section.

 arification of the Past: Misuse of the Archaeological W and Historical Records In his 2011 monograph The Better Angels of Our Nature, evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker argues that we have become less violent as we have become more civilized, creating a linear narrative informed by an evolutionary perspective on violent human interaction. Because of the popularity and widespread public appeal of his volume, no consideration of violence in prehistory can avoid addressing the “Pinker effect.” The idea of a violent prehistoric past is, of course, not new. Keely’s 1996 book War Before Civilization had recently popularized this perspective. Another similarly debated aspect of past violence is whether it always presents an adaptive strategy in the evolutionary sense. The real issue in these debates may be our default, twenty-first-century moral reservation toward the “recognition of the social function of violence” and what may in a particular context be regarded as a potentially positive outcome by those involved (Münkler and Llanque 2003, p. 973). Many scholars have emphasized the context-sensitive nature of violent interaction; violence is not inevitable but a strategy employed in particular situations and environments (e.g., Daly and Wilson 2003; Goetz 2010; Liddle et al. 2012). Pinker’s linear narrative therefore appears deeply flawed (Fibiger in press). The evolutionary sciences should be regarded as descriptive, rather than prescriptive (Goetz 2010). Even so, they do help us define patterns in the particular social and material circumstances that lead to the occurrence of violence (Daly and Wilson 2003). Scientific study also facilitates overcoming the physical, maybe even visceral, aspect of violence that makes it such a newsworthy subject in the popular press. Returning to Pinker’s hypothesis, his linear and generalizing approach to human and societal development alone should give most bioarchaeologists reason


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for concern, particularly in light of the heterogeneity of skeletal trauma data encountered in the archaeological record. Additionally, Cirillo and Taleb’s (2016) criticism of the statistical basis underpinning Pinker’s “long peace” has been taken up by others, most notably John Gray ( john-gray-steven-pinker-wrong-violence-war-declinin), who proposes a more cyclical perspective on human violence. Most recently, Falk and Hildebolt (2017) have also rejected Pinker’s statistical analyses. Ultimately, for the prehistoric period in particular, it is essential to emphasize the limitations of the skeletal record (see Martin et al. 2013, pp. 105–113), as well as the lack of contemporary contextualization for prehistory, which should not provide an opening for universal explanations of temporally and contextually diverse phenomena. Related to the popular suggestion that humans have transitioned from a violent past to a peaceful present is the proposal that humans have been moving ever forward toward civilization. In the following section, we will examine this perspective and its competing stakeholders more closely.

 ecoming Civilized? The Competing Perspectives and Needs B of Academia, the Media, and the General Public Civilizing Public Narratives From the Victorian period until relatively recently, a dominant narrative in public understanding of the past is that humans have been moving ever forward toward civilization. This theme, shown particularly in the portrayal of prehistoric societies in nineteenth-century popular literature (Ruddick 2009), has been informed strongly by European colonialism and the Enlightenment, with its rediscovery of Greco-­ Roman literature (Harrison 2013). A key element of the civilization narrative is violence, whether perpetrated against “weaker” members of a community (e.g., women, children, and the elderly) to show that such behaviors are barbaric or toward “inferior” peoples (e.g., Neanderthals), because they threaten more civilized communities (Ruddick 2009). Pinker’s (2011) evolutionary argument generalizes such violence across humankind. Such meta-narratives have become codified in the English National Curriculum for History (GOV.UK 2013), with the non-statutory (but highly influential and utilized) topics in the Roman period including the invasions by Caesar and Claudius, the Roman Empire by AD 42, and the power of its army. This perspective strengthens the “civilizing” notion of the Roman conquest, but sadly only serves to reinforce the stereotype of the Roman Empire as being heavily militarized and violent (Hingley 2000). The UK’s heritage sector,1 which is the main driver in assisting the promotion, conservation, and interpretation of the past (Castree et al. 2013), often presents a  This includes cultural and archaeological institutions, professional bodies, and sections of the tourism industry. 1

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different emphasis. The heritage industry stresses continuity in settlement and landscape use by different communities from prehistory to the Medieval period, in part because identity and sense of place have been shown to create community cohesion (Jones 2016; among others, Despite this altered message, critics of the UK heritage sector argue the civilizing meta-­ narrative continues to strongly inform how more recent historical events are shaped and described, such as the downplay or absence of information about clashes between the police and miners (and supporters) during the closure in the 1980s of much of Britain’s mining industry (Sables 2017).

Communicating the Past: Navigating the Media in Academia The belief that humanity has become less violent with passing time, the so-called pacification of the past (among others, Armit 2011), often contrasts sharply with the media’s appetite for evidence of cannibalism, murder, child abuse, or human sacrifice, which never seems to be satiated. Bioarchaeological “stories” (aka research) about violence never fail to get media coverage, often globally within a few hours (Redfern 2017). This disconnect in interpretations of the past often can be traced to miscommunication between the scientific community and the media in the use of descriptive terminology. As the “impact” of research is increasingly measured by its dissemination into the political and popular discourse, the onus is on scholars to become better communicators, particularly as digital media further facilitates this type of engagement ( An example of this disconnect and its potential ramifications lies in the use of the term “prehistory,” which suffers from its definition as the “time before history.” It has (too) frequently been glossed in terms of what it is not; that is, a time before writing systems and before civilized humans. Prehistory, however, actually includes many millennia of important, complex evolutionary, technological, and social changes (Cunliffe 2001; Feder 2016). Despite significant physical evidence for the involvement of children and women in prehistoric activities (e.g., Snow 2013; van Gelder 2015), interpretations of events in prehistory predominantly continue to focus on “male” activities, such as hunting and the creation of material culture, particularly the introduction of metal tools and weapons (among others, Curnoe 2017; Hager 2000).2 Because of such biases, prehistory often is viewed as a time of inherent barbarism and violence, mirrored by people’s gradual taming of nature to allow agriculture and urbanism to flourish. Or at least, that’s what popular culture and many historical texts would have us believe! Confronting the ways in which the media presents archaeological research is not a new topic of concern for academics. In particular, scholars have long been  The authors have observed that in Scandinavian museums, women, children, and the elderly are well-represented (e.g., Stockholm, Sweden, This contrasts with many British museums and interpretations (visual/written) ( 2


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aware of the tendency for the media to reduce results to a single narrative/interpretation, remove caveats and “technical” words, and edit interviews (Clack and Brittain 2016).3 To provide more digestible and accessible research headlines and effectively market a “story” often means that something has to be altered, and most of the time it is terminology (Scheufele 2013), either through use of superlatives (the earliest, the largest, etc.) or through meeting the media’s craving for features on our apparently violent past. An example of this type of adjustment may be seen in the language used in reports of recently published trauma research about Medieval London, which proposed that the city was the most violent place in Britain and had higher rates of violence than other places in Europe (,833,460/Peasants-latemedieval-London-faced-extreme-violence.html and article/2145415-medieval-london-was-the-most-violent-place-in-england/). For bioarchaeological research, the popular media has contributed directly to the ways in which violence is reported and understood outside of our discipline.4 Though social science research has demonstrated that what a society believes to be an act of violence is temporally and culturally situated (Bäck 2004; Blok 2001), media coverage often excludes this nuance. Evidence for the processing and consumption of children’s bodies during the Bronze Age in Crete, discovered at the Palace of Knossos, the location associated with the Bull of Minos, provides one such example. The published research is convincing; children’s manual phalanges and vertebrae with cut marks were found mixed with edible snails in several pottery vessels (Wall et al. 1986). Although this information is included in television shows and popular books about the Minoans, it is not a defining feature of their civilization in the popular imagination or even included in interpretation panels at the site (e.g., Similar trends are also seen in the perception of Romans, whom the majority of the public knows killed many thousands of people for public entertainment or in battles as part of the activities of an expanding empire (Beard 2016). However, this scale of violence is regarded as acceptable and just “how they were.” We know that violence is culturally and temporally situated, but still, it is fascinating to see that people are not appalled by Roman violence, perhaps because it was perpetrated by a “civilization,” a notion we have been taught to respect (United Nations 2001). This overview of the competing interpretations for the broad array of violent activities in prehistoric and historic societies underscores the extent to which they have been shaped by many factors, including colonial histories and narratives, the evolving relationship between archaeology and the media over the past 50 years, and recent responses to mass population movement and the rise of the far-right in  For example, words such as suggest or potentially, which for us contain important shades of gray, but are removed because they indicate uncertainty. Technical words such as descriptive terminologies are also replaced or deleted. 4  The highly contested work by Pinker, Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, was recommended in 2018 by Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg for the World Economic Forum ( 3

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politics. Generally, these interpretations have been used to support a narrative of civilization reducing violence through time. At the local scale, however, archaeological evidence for violence also is being used by the tourist industry in a way that we propose falls into the “dark tourism” category (Chap. 2; Stone 2006). This term is used to describe the ever-increasing numbers of visitors to places or museums that are associated with or created by warfare and disasters, judicial punishment, and structural violence (e.g., historic and more recent battlefields, the Roman town of Pompeii in Italy which was destroyed during a volcanic eruption, or the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Cambodia) (Sharpley and Stone 2009). In the next two subsections of this chapter, in order to explore the ways in which the perspectives and needs of the public, the media, and academia should drive improvement in our communication tactics, we turn to examples of prehistoric peoples whose propensity for violence has been recently reinterpreted, both by the media and in the context of such tourist sites.

I nterpreting and Misinterpreting New aDNA Evidence from Prehistoric Peoples After Neanderthal DNA was discovered in ancient and contemporary human populations (, research and interpretations of Neanderthal culture and interaction with modern humans were adjusted. Previous to the genetic work, Neanderthals were most likely to be portrayed as violent, clumsy cannibals, vulnerable to sustaining trauma, and unable to speak (Relethford 2017). Now, continuity and exchange of technologies and culture between modern humans and Neanderthal populations (Scott and Giusti 2006) is emphasized, and the media focus is on a complex Neanderthal culture ( article-4840212/How-Neanderthals-built-stone-tools-using-tar.html). Their trauma patterns have also been revised in recent years, with the shift away from the media-­ friendly “Rodeo rider” hypothesis (e.g., Gore 1996) to a more carefully considered one, which notes similarities between Neanderthals and Early Modern Humans ( (Estabrook 2007; see also Trinkhaus 2012). Despite this shift in interpretations by both academia and the media, these trauma data continue to be misused by other disciplines, such as one novel mathematical study that examined the consequences of post-traumatic impairment in Neanderthals. It hypothesized that because large numbers of Neanderthals suffered from impairments, they were unable to perform a cultural skill or pass on knowledge, an outcome that may have contributed to their communities being replaced by Early Modern Humans (Nakahashi 2017). Interactions between early farming and hunter-gatherer communities is another area of research that has been reexamined in light of new aDNA data. These data have been interpreted in contrasting ways by different studies, reflecting how


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c­ ontemporary events can shape the interpretation. A study from Eastern Europe found evidence for population admixture, which is simply explained as the “incoming” farmers setting up villages, to which people from the existing hunter-gatherer population chose to settle in or farmers joined the existing population (GonzálezFortes et al. 2017). This interpretation and the language used are nonresistant and passive, with an emphasis in the results and discussion sections on cultural exchange and integration, although these are acknowledged to be “complex.” Despite the study recognizing the potential for complexity, it does not mention the bioarchaeological evidence for violence during early Neolithic in the same region (Ferguson 2013). The evidence for interpersonal trauma in the region suggests that violence was not limited to the breaking of bones and the killing of people (Ferguson 2013), as all too frequently when different communities reach a tipping or crisis point in their interactions, sexual violence against women also happens (Engel Merry 2009). In contrast, the aDNA analysis of prehistoric victims of human sacrifice in France (Beau et al. 2017) shows evidence for new populations being present. This act of ritual violence has been interpreted as a population responding to the upheaval created by new communities moving into the territory; it does not shy-away from violence being a response to change. Interestingly, in the French study, although there are alternative scenarios to explain why human sacrifice was practiced (among others, Bremma 2007), the contrast in emphasis and shift toward a perspective that places violence front and center is one, we suggest, that is driven by contemporary concerns. In 2015, Europe experienced the greatest movement of people since the Second World War, the majority of these were refugees escaping the conflict in Syria ( This has caused significant political and social upheaval in many European countries, and whereas previously the presence of migrants would have been one option among many for contributing to violence, it is often the only, unquestioned interpretation.

The Lure of Cannibalism and Violent Women Reports of cannibalism and coverage of prehistoric women associated with any form of violence remain incredibly popular media topics. With the reexamination of assemblages from the Old World, new discoveries of this cannibalism have emerged. Researchers have argued that cannibalism sometimes occurred in response to food shortages or as part of funerary practices and other ritual behaviors (e.g., Bello et al. 2016). Unsurprisingly, these studies generate a huge amount of tabloid interest, even when careful reading of the evidence suggests that many if not all the cut marks incised upon the bones excavated from Somerset’s Gough Gorge, for example, were made for decoration rather than evisceration ( sciencetech/article-4775452/The-gruesome-practices-ancient-cannibals-Somerset. html). Similarly, Case Study 2 (below) sensationalizes a context for which the motivations for cannibalism are ambiguous. This interest in cannibalism may be explained by Western culture’s insatiable fascination with the macabre and corpses

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(Chap. 2; Foltyn 2008; Penfold-Mounce 2016). Because most of the archaeological evidence for this practice is prehistoric, coverage of these results by the media further serves to reinforce notions of barbarism and inhumanity in deep antiquity. The visibility accorded “violent women” can be traced to the Enlightenment, with the rediscovery of Greco-Roman texts that also found active female participation in violence especially worthy of comment (Mayor 2016). This fascination also plays heavily on deeply embedded Western normative notions about women’s passive behavior and the shock value with which the public views their participation in violence, making it difficult to communicate that women’s participation in violent acts was normal and expected in certain societies (Linduff and Rubinson 2008; Redfern 2017). The participation of women and children, including those of prehistory, in acts of violence remains a source of fascination for the public, especially when they are seen as perpetrators. A recent example of this phenomenon is the media coverage of a Viking warrior burial, located in a prominent position within the Swedish landscape, which contained martial equipment and two horses (Hedenstierna-Jonson et  al. 2017) ( and The burial had been discovered in the nineteenth century and had been presumed to include a male individual due to weaponry among the grave goods, despite primary source evidence for women warriors in Viking society. Recent osteological and aDNA analyses of the skeleton found that it was a female, greater than 30  years old, who had no evidence for disease or injury present in her skeleton (Hedenstierna-Jonson et al. 2017). Even though the burial showed no evidence of trauma, the public and (too) many professionals continue to link weaponry and Viking attributions to aggressive, violence acts. Indeed, an Internet search showed that this topic is also a victim of historiocopia, with simplistic connections made between female combatants and the fantasies of popular culture ( html). Speculatively, we wonder what fantastic interpretations would be made by the media of a male Viking buried with female grave goods! To further illustrate the manner in which evidence of alleged violence in the past affects popular (and research) representations, in the following section, we provide a range of bioarchaeological examples that have received considerable media attention.

Case Studies of Violence In this section, we discuss three examples that reflect distinctive arenas of scientific reporting wherein violence has been sensationalized: murder, cannibalism, and institutionalized violence. In presenting these case studies, we highlight the disconnect between the scientific message and popular media interpretation, focus upon


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the possible cause of this disconnect, and suggest big-picture “speaking out” lessons that can be gleaned from these case studies.

Ötzi the Iceman and Dark Tourism In the time since two hikers discovered an ice mummy in the Oetzaler Alps of northern Italy in 1991, the body of a 45-year-old man, known to the world as “Ötzi,” has become one of the most famous (alleged) murder victims in history. Since 1998, his body and accompanying clothes and artifacts have been curated in a permanent exhibition at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology (Bolzano, Italy) (http://www. The excellent soft-tissue preservation of this mummy, combined with technological improvements in science in recent years, has meant that we know more about him than perhaps any other ancient individual. The discovery of Ötzi’s body was reported to the Italian and German police authorities. After 2 days, his remains were recovered and removed in a body bag (supervised by a forensic scientist) and transported by hearse to the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Innsbruck (Austria). This setting and the use of recognizable equipment associated with death and press coverage coincided with the rise of forensic science on television and what has become known as the “CSI effect” (Chap. 2). The Internet also provided a forum for public speculation (Komar 2014; Vicary and Zaikman 2017). Importantly, the recovery of his remains followed tropes that the general public recognized as being “scientific,” associated with the recovery of murder victims, and features of dark tourism (Lennon 2017). Initially, Ötzi was thought to have died of exhaustion in the mountains. With further examination that revealed traumatic injuries, it was then suggested that he had been injured in a fight or a fall before dying (Spindler 1994). Subsequent research identified perimortem injuries, including a cut on his hand and an embedded arrowhead in his left shoulder ( iceman-research-milestones/). These results generated more possible interpretations, most of which were explored in television documentaries and popular magazines, such as Ötzi being a human sacrifice (http://news.nationalgeographic. com/news/2002/01/0115_020115iceman.html). More recently, evidence for a traumatic brain injury was also identified, which further contributed to the theories of Ötzi being murdered (­ With its balanced view, Ötzi’s exhibition makes a significant contribution to the region’s economy, as the museum is the main reason why tourists visit the city of Bolzano, with an average of 250,000 visitors a year; indeed, a survey of visitors found that 89% would visit another city if Ötzi was exhibited there (Brida et  al. 2013). The economic power that he holds means that the dark tourism aspects of his discovery and death are utilized to continue interest in the region and city. For example, the director of the museum where Ötzi is curated commissioned a “cold-­ case” investigation into his death by a detective chief inspector from Munich’s

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police department. This detective’s review of the evidence concluded that he had a fight a few days before he died, during which he sustained the injury to his hand. Having won that fight, the inspector believes that his murderer, driven by strong emotions, followed Ötzi up into the mountains and shot him in the back from some distance away (Bell 2017). None of these facts or interpretations are new; indeed the majority have been suggested in publications generated by researchers at the museum; however, the involvement of the police and the use of recognizable CSI tropes meant that the story was covered by international media outlets and must have contributed to increased visitor numbers. The example of Ötzi demonstrates that often, despite careful curation of archaeological evidence and reporting of interpretations based on this evidence, the media continues to search for the “gruesome” details of such a find. A number of scientific publications, including several in top-tier periodicals such as Nature, Science, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (US), have reported upon subjects related to Ötzi as varied as the source of the copper used to make his hand axe, his gut flora, and results of ancient DNA analyses performed on samples from his body ( The display at the South Tyrol Museum and the research outputs generated by the institution are balanced, informative, and scientifically grounded, to the extent that Robb (2009, p. 120) describes him being portrayed as “Ice Man as Technician” in order to facilitate engagement by contemporary visitors. Ötzi’s clothing, tools, and medical knowledge are all on display in a manner to increase evidence of his sophistication. However, media attention tends to focus upon more sensational details, such as his murder, his fecundity, and his probable ancestry, among other topics. Thus, this case study provides an example of an incredibly popular discovery that has been carefully curated and reported upon but also a lesson in the continued tendency for sensationalized reports by the media, which we must take into consideration as we work to thoughtfully convey our research.

 erxheim and the Question of Mass Cannibalism H in Neolithic Europe In the previous case study, we demonstrated that even in the context of careful curation and reporting, the media will search for sensational details of archaeological and bioarchaeological research. Yet another source of potential issues in conveying results related to the study of violence in the past may be found in researchers being complicit in sensationalizing interpretations in their own scholarly publications. This phenomenon is likely due to the increased pressure from funding agencies to demonstrate the public impact of such research. Here, we illustrate this concern by examining the scientific reporting of signs of processing of human remains consistent with cannibalism at the Early Neolithic site of Herxheim in southern Germany. The site dates to the later phases of the earliest Neolithic in the region (5300– 4950 BC) and consists of a segmented ditch system that contained bones and bone


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fragments representing more than 5000 individuals, including intentionally shaped skull caps, as well as animal remains and pottery fragments (Zeeb-Lanz et al. 2016). The reference to “mass cannibalism” in the title of Boulestin et  al.’s (2009) research publication, Mass cannibalism in the Linear Pottery Culture at Herxheim (Palatinate, Germany), while certainly newsworthy, distracts from the bigger and perhaps more interesting issues raised by the findings. A significant proportion of human remains from the site were indeed processed in ways that mirror the use of animal resources, but does that really extend to the whole, much larger assemblage? Does this indeed represent an example of mass cannibalism? While interspecies consumption of these remains can be suggested, but not confirmed, what is the context, beyond the idea of being a result or by-product of crisis among early farmers, in which these practices were carried out? What are alternative purposes for removing flesh and marrow from human remains  – funerary, ritual, or even practical? Ethnographic studies of cannibalism as a form of violence have highlighted the complexity of practices and the potential non-conflict-related meanings associated with the term “cannibalism” (Conklin 2010), a term that in current Western society is often regarded as unspeakable, a concept beyond the limits of humanity as we accept it (e.g., the continuing fascination with the Donner Party tragedy in 1846– 1847, USA; see Dixon et al. 2011). Reporting on the article, the British Independent newspaper referred to “evidence of mass cannibalism in which even children and unborn babies were on the menu” ( europe/evidence-of-mass-cannibalism-uncovered-in-germany-1835341.html), and only toward the very end of the report did the author acknowledge the possibility of alternative explanations. These explanations include secondary burial practices, which, while alluded to in the original scientific publication, received no further discussion in the coverage. Interestingly, the museum dedicated to this site gives a range of interpretations of the “mass cannibalism” but emphasizes the role of ritual as an explanation of the human remains ( In the end, the enduring popular legacy of Herxheim is its shock potential. It has been transformed into a byline, “that Stone Age cannibalism site,” rather than a platform for discussing the very real issue of how we accommodate varied practices into a balanced and considered narrative of the deep human past.

Lake Turkana and the Question of the Earliest Warfare In the previous case studies, we have discussed the ways in which both careful reporting and complicity in sensationalizing results can fuel media speculation about the nature of violence in the past, affecting public opinion of bioarchaeological research. Our third case study highlights, in particular, the terminological and analytical challenges faced by bioarchaeologists in translating research well into the popular media. The site of Nataruk, west of Lake Turkana in Northern Kenya, dates back approximately 10,000 years. The archaeological findings from this site have

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recently been branded as the earliest evidence for human warfare (https://www.; A multiauthored paper published in Nature presented skeletal evidence for perimortem trauma on 10 of the 12 articulated skeletons from the site, including embedded arrowheads, as well as other skeletal injuries (Mirazón Lahr et  al. 2016a). Some individuals also appeared to have had their hands tied behind their backs. Chronologically and culturally, the human remains represent nomadic hunter-­ gatherer groups, and the researchers suggested Nataruk is the earliest “evidence that warfare was part of the repertoire of inter-group relations among prehistoric hunter-­ gatherers” (Mirazón Lahr et al. 2016a, p. 394). Definitions of warfare vary within and across disciplines, which put different emphases on social, tactical, and physical aspects; degrees of specificity and complexity; different scales involving groups, units, or countries; the presence or absence of territoriality and armament; and degrees of social organization, hierarchy, and duration (Ember and Ember 1994; Ferguson 1990; Harrison 2002; Kerin 2008; Keegan 1993). The title of the Nataruk publication refers to intergroup violence, and in the opening section of the article, the complex challenges involved in both defining and assessing the evidence for warfare in small-scale societies are set out. The heterogeneity of how warfare/violent conflict is defined is acknowledged clearly by the authors. The site’s real meaning lies in its implications for how conflict occurred and how it was negotiated in early prehistory, a time when the survival of large skeletal assemblages is rare. However, the ultimate prominence of the term “warfare” as the defining interpretative framework for the site has a reductionist quality, almost giving the impression that only through calling it “war” rather than “intergroup conflict” do the deaths at Nataruk become truly meaningful for those within the sphere of academic publication and those outside the scientific community, i.e., with the popular press and wider general public (see also Falk and Hildebolt 2017). The issue is complicated further by scientific repudiation of some aspects of the analysis, including the contemporaneity of the burials, the traumatic origin of at least some of the cranial defects observed, the accuracy of the dating evidence provided, and the stratigraphic interpretation of the site context (Stojanowski et al. 2016) that, while consequently defended by the researchers (Mirazón Lahr et al. 2016b), illuminates the limitations inherent in providing unambiguous results when identifying perimortem traumatic injuries on taphonomically complex human remains. This particular case also highlights issues of interobserver differences and the importance of multiple perspectives and experiences in the process of differential diagnosis. These qualifiers underpin much of the bioarchaeological trauma data published and are discussed in some of the scientific literature (e.g., Fibiger et al. 2013); however, they do not make headlines as they may dilute the popular appeal of newsworthy research data. These case studies illustrate the manner in which bioarchaeological research on different forms of violence have engaged with the public. When writing for professional audiences, having carefully framed, scientifically valid arguments is


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the author’s primary responsibility. However, as the bioarchaeologist then transitions to interactions with the media and the public, whether directly or through an interlocutor, he/she must ensure that the basic argument is impeccably developed and clearly articulated, without sensationalizing the results or interpretations. Then arguments can be distilled and reticence discarded. This approach must be balanced by the need to include qualifiers when writing for colleagues. Engaging the public directly in experimental programs, such as the experimental bioarchaeology discussed in the following section, is another strategy for bridging the professional-public divide.

Bridging the Gap: Experimental Bioarchaeology Reconstructions and reenactment can bridge the more theoretically perceived academic narrative and the desire by the general public to experience and understand what life was really like in the past. For example, due to their experiential nature, battle reenactments are extremely popular, giving the participant the feeling of being a first-hand observer rather than a passive receiver of presorted and interpreted information about the past ( alva-figures-show-uk-see-7-2-increase-visitor-numbers/). At the same time, these battle reenactments tend to focus on historically documented events rather than smaller-scale encounters, or even the undocumented prehistoric past, for which we see mostly reconstructions of domestic, subsistence, and craft-related activities (e.g., that are less likely to be subject to controversy. When we turn to an experimental bioarchaeology of violence, the following questions become salient. Are the tools available at the time capable of producing the observed patterns of skeletal trauma? Where are disposal contexts for these victims and what does this say about their social identity? To answer these and other questions, the experimental bioarchaeology of human violence is an emerging field that focuses upon understanding specific social meanings of particular violent human interactions (Downing and Fibiger 2017; Dyer and Fibiger, 2017; Tiesler and Cucina 2006). Ultimately, this form of experimental study combines the first-­ hand appeal of traditional reenactment with standardized data collection to scientifically capture the experiential aspect of “doing” and link this with a deeper understanding of the “how” and “why” of particular practices. This is most challenging for experimental frameworks that do not make exact reproducibility their ultimate goal but try to give equal weighting to authenticity and actuality of the experiment. This actualistic aspect of experimental bioarchaeology links materiality and human agency in a manner that moves us from the speculative inference that something “may” have happened in the past to how it could have occurred (Outram 2008). For conflict-related experiments this would, for example, include the manner in which a weapon was held for effective use, how much practice was needed to

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skillfully employ it, how exactly it would have been swung or thrown during combat, and so on. When brought into the public sphere, experimental bioarchaeology can therefore reconnect the academic and practical aspects of research, as well as illustrate past violence-related activities and challenges to a wider audience, and even invite the audience to become part of the experimental process. This practice may involve testing particular implements for their suitability as weapons of violence (Dyer and Fibiger 2017), trying to establish the pattern of skeletal changes for the use of particular weapons in the past when few archaeological traces remain, and establishing how individuals experienced the actual use of weapons or tools as implements of violence. These studies often emphasize a real-life use scenario in multiple experiments over an exactly replicable laboratory test setup (https://www.; photos/[email protected]/sets/72157663329187884). While all intervening variables relating to environmental conditions, the tools used, the violent agent, and the subject must be recorded and results suitable qualified, experimental bioarchaeology holds potential for engaging public interest as well as advancing our knowledge of violent behavior in the past.

Conclusions Studying violence in past lives has moved beyond isolated case studies and interpretations that end with a clinical definition and a simplistic, frequently speculative cause. Scholars have demonstrated that evidence for ancient fractures and weapon injuries reveals unique insights to gender and status hierarchies and responses to catastrophic events and, above all, that the violence enacted at the individual level is connected to violence perpetrated by a society’s organizing structures (e.g., intimate partner violence, structural violence) (Redfern 2017). Interpreting the evidence bioarchaeologists uncover for violence in the past is both challenging and engaging, not only for our discipline but also as we communicate our research results to the general public. Bioarchaeologists are a significant part of ever-evolving relationships between the heritage sector and the public, as created both by social media and traditional media outlets. The immediate visibility of interpretations of violence makes the accuracy of our observations and our sensitivity to archaeological and historical contexts crucial. As we begin reporting our research results, even within conference settings, our inferences seem to extend beyond our audience rapidly, because of information shared via live streaming and Twitter. As these words speed across the Internet, qualifying adjectives, footnotes, and references are lost, with the traditional notions of expertise, proof, and professional knowledge also dropping by the wayside. This portends a future where our research reporting now has multiple trajectories, all coexisting, with significance and value determined who is accessing them: academic colleagues, the media, and the myriad of spaces created by the public. Communication is key to navigating this new future, and bioarchaeologists must accept responsibility for ensuring that their


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output is easy to understand, the limitations of their study are transparent, and, above all, they provide unbiased perspectives on their findings.

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Chapter 4

Bridging the Precontact and Postcontact Divide in Eastern North America: Prior Conditions Set the Stage for Historic Period Outcomes George R. Milner

Introduction The European arrival in North America is commonly regarded as marking a decisive break between long-established cultural trajectories and everything else that followed. After contact, native peoples died in droves, they were displaced from their land, entire societies disappeared, and cultures were forever altered. Stated baldly, what had been, relatively speaking, a prolonged period of slow incremental change was abruptly and irrevocably transformed into a pell-mell dash to destruction. Much is accurate about such oft-repeated statements. But it is also true that much is packed into them that deserves a closer, critical, and even skeptical look. Part of the reason for taking a closer look is because this view of events reduces the indigenous peoples of the postcontact period to a passive role where they merely reacted to, not shaped, what took place around them. They were simply bowled over by an irresistible onslaught far beyond their comprehension, let alone their ability to influence or control. The alternative is that these peoples were active participants in their destinies who proved to be remarkably resilient and adaptable, despite formidable challenges and many setbacks. Historians and archaeologists, along with their bioarchaeological colleagues, are currently teasing apart interactions among demographic processes, disease experience, economic and sociopolitical systems, and environmental settings that together ultimately resulted in profound postcontact transformations in native ways of life (Beck 2013; Ethridge 2013; Ewen 1996; Kelton 2007; Knight 1994; Larsen et  al. 2001; Newson 1993; Snow 1994; Stojanowski 2010; Swedlund 2015).1 It is becoming increasingly clear that there  An overview of the development of twentieth-century scholarship that makes use of both archaeological and historical source material can be found in Rubertone (2000). This combination of 1

G. R. Milner (*) Department of Anthropology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA e-mail: [email protected] © Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019 J. E. Buikstra (ed.), Bioarchaeologists Speak Out, Bioarchaeology and Social Theory,



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was great variation in what occurred and its effect on local groups, consistent with differences in social and natural settings. Continuity is emphasized along with change, and the latter is no longer treated, explicitly or implicitly, as an absolute and sudden step-like discontinuity with the past. Just such a sharp break has been argued by Dobyns (1983), a forceful advocate for an enormous precontact population. Multiple high-mortality epidemics, starting early in the sixteenth century, are said to have swept unimpeded across the continent, killing multitudes in their path. There is, however, a point of agreement: ultimately cultures were transformed, people were forced off their land, and groups suffered horrific losses, with many not surviving at all. Yet despite all they had experienced, Indian populations eventually rebounded, although the present configuration of tribes and their spatial distribution differ greatly from what they were a half millennium ago when Europeans arrived in force on the continent (Shoemaker 1999; Thornton 1987, 2005).2 This chapter focuses on what took place in eastern North America, an area that has benefited from a vast amount of archaeological research. Circumstances long prior to the European arrival set the stage for what took place in North America following AD 1492 (Milner 2015). Of special interest are precontact population distributions and intergroup conflict, both of which are now known to have varied greatly across both time and space (Anderson 1991, 1994; Milner 1999; Milner and Chaplin 2010; Milner et al. 2001, 2013; Snow 1994; Ward and Davis 1993; Warrick 2008). Attention first focuses on the temporally and spatially variable nature of occupation during the several centuries prior to contact. It then shifts to intergroup hostilities because the chances of actual fighting breaking out varied from one place to the next. Much of the substance of this paper touches on three related issues. First, a difference in source materials—for the precontact period solely archaeological remains, and for the postcontact period mostly historical accounts—has a powerful effect on scholarly writing, hence public perceptions, about the several centuries surrounding ca. AD 1500. That distinction continues today despite several decades of efforts to bridge the academic disciplinary divide through a serious engagement with postcontact archaeological materials, to the mutual benefit of both fields of study (Anderson 1994; Beck 2013; Brown 1990; Smith 2000, 2001; Snow 1994). For example, until recently there has been insufficient archaeological information to assess regional variation in precontact population distribution and density, as well as intergroup relations, immediately prior to the European arrival in the sixteenth century (Anderson 1994, 1996; Milner and Chaplin 2010; Milner et al. 2001, 2013; Snow 1994; Warrick 2008). An incomparably richer historical d­ isciplines is often an uneasy relationship where the strengths and weaknesses of different kinds of information, each with their own set of biases, are not fully appreciated. 2  The first Europeans to establish a toehold in North America did so a millennium ago when the Norse intermittently contacted people they called skraeling along the coastlines of eastern Canada (Odess et al. 2000). Although the Norse settled for a short period in Newfoundland, they maintained only a tenuous grip on the westernmost edge of their world, finally pulling back from Greenland in the fifteenth century. Relatively few families that were focused on small landholdings were far different from early modern nations that for various economic, political, and religious reasons were intent on expanding their spheres of influence in North America, starting in the sixteenth century.

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record—especially information about what occurred at specific times and places, who took part in them, and why they did so (although always debatable) —means it is all too easy to relegate any conditions and events of consequence to the postcontact period. That is even true of much of the otherwise sophisticated literature on the active part native societies played in complex and ever-changing social and natural settings in the early historical period. The precontact situation is for the most part treated as having had little influence on what happened afterwards, although there are exceptions where the several centuries prior to ca. AD 1500 are treated as something other than a mere backdrop to the early postcontact period (Anderson 1994; Brown and Sasso 2001; Smith 2000, 2001; Snow 1994; Warrick 2008). Given this imbalance in the scholarly literature, one could be excused for mistakenly believing that the European pursuit of their political and economic agendas, the penetration of newcomers deep into the continent, and the spread of new animals, plants, and microorganisms played out across rather homogeneous social and demographic landscapes. Perhaps more accurately, any variation that existed was of little consequence when faced with the events that unfolded during the early postcontact period. Second, given the final outcome, it is all too tempting to view the precontact and postcontact periods as being wholly good and bad, respectively. Everything regarded as negative is attributed to postcontact events and conditions, regardless of whether or not they were explicitly intended by the European newcomers. They include, among others, marked indigenous population decline and devastating warfare, both topics of this chapter. Earlier times, in contrast, were good times, a paradise lost in the turbulence of the historic period. Such prior assumptions color inferences drawn from archaeological and historical information and have no place in sober analyses of what happened and why it did so. Third, lurking behind this entire discussion is a major, and largely unaddressed, challenge for archaeologists: making sense of some aspects of human behavior requires systematically assembling information from enormous geographical areas. That is true of population-related issues, such as regional trends in the numbers of people, migration patterns, and intergroup relations, including both exchange and conflict. Thus, an area that far exceeds those of most archaeological studies must, by necessity, be the subject of this chapter.

Conventional Good–To–Bad Scenario During the half millennium before contact, eastern North America—also referred to as the Eastern Woodlands in recognition of the dense forests that once blanketed the land—was home to groups that, for the most part, were village agriculturalists who lived in multi-settlement societies (Milner 2004). Some of these societies, especially those frequently labeled chiefdoms, were among the largest and most complex indigenous sociopolitical systems to have existed in what is now the United States and Canada. The Eastern Woodlands is admirably suited for examining what took place during the prehistoric and historic periods. It is large enough to


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encompass processes that unfolded over vast expanses of land; the societies shared a number of features, so much so that they collectively can be said to define a culture area (Kroeber 1939); and considerable archaeological work has been undertaken there, especially over the past few decades. In the Eastern Woodlands, the several centuries preceding and following ca. AD 1500 are often simply contrasted as the precontact (prehistoric) and postcontact (historic) periods. A third variably defined interval of time, the protohistoric, is often slipped between the prehistoric and historic periods. That is because in many places sustained face-to-face encounters between Indians and Europeans did not occur until the seventeenth or even eighteenth centuries.3 Regardless of the labels chosen for these time intervals, there is an implicit, if not explicit, assumption that things were essentially good, and then they turned bad, often truly awful. Depending on the geographical area of interest, subject of study, and interpretations of often equivocal evidence, the protohistoric period can be viewed as encompassing conditions that were fine, not-so-good-but-not-yet-terrible, or catastrophic for indigenous peoples. Differences of opinion, especially those toward the more dismal end of the spectrum, stem in large part from the position one takes on the frequency of epidemics and the extent to which they spread among indigenous groups, and all else that followed in train. Suffice it to say that any such temporal dichotomy or trichotomy, regardless of whether it appears in the scholarly or popular literature, often features problems. They include uniformity imposed on diverse postcontact societies, each actively engaged with the challenges and opportunities posed by rapidly changing natural and social environments. The precontact period also encompassed diverse local and regional population and sociopolitical histories. This is precisely the rich contextual detail that is lost in a simple good-to-bad scenario. Any understanding of what took place, and why it did so, is correspondingly impoverished. A stark contrast between the precontact and postcontact periods breaks down in the face of archaeologically supported and more nuanced views of conditions before, during, and after the earliest years of the historic period (Brown and Sasso 2001; Knight 1994; Snow 1994). That information comes from innumerable surveys and excavations, the great majority of which have been undertaken since the initiation in the late 1970s of well-funded cultural resource management (CRM) projects in the United States. A similar increase in archaeological projects has taken place in adjoining parts of Canada. As the results of these projects have accumulated, views of the past are being transformed, including interpretations of long-­term population trends and societal interactions.  Time can be split into any number of segments to suit the purpose and convenience of the writer. Fontana (1965), for example, divides relatively late Indian sites into protohistoric, contact, and postcontact, although he does not explicitly discuss Southeastern sites. Settlements encountered by the de Soto expedition uncomfortably straddle his protohistoric and contact categories because these places were mentioned, however briefly and imprecisely, in accounts of the ill-fated journey, but immediately thereafter they disappear again from written documents. There is little to be gained by splitting hairs over how one classifies units of time as long as they serve a practical purpose, such as protohistoric as conventionally used by Eastern Woodlands archaeologists. 3

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Population Estimates For the purposes of this chapter, the single biggest effect of more abundant archaeological data is on population estimates for North America on the eve of the European arrival. Better estimates are important because those produced through various means over the past century range from about 1–18 million people (Daniels 1992). The largest estimates proposed for North America, quite apart from their other shortcomings, did not have the benefit of this newly acquired information (Dobyns 1966, 1983; Ramenofsky 1987). Dobyns’ high depopulation figures—and by working backwards, the largest population estimate for North American in AD 1492— have been picked up in publications that reach far beyond academic anthropology, such as those by Diamond (1999, p. 375, 441) and Sale (1991, p. 304). Wondrously large estimates, with enthusiasm dampened only slightly by the academic controversy that immediately erupted over the largest of the lot (Henige 1986; Snow 1995a; Snow and Lanphear 1988), are too tempting to ignore in popular writing that quite naturally has, as one of its objectives, attracting as many readers as possible (Mann 2002; Sale 1991, pp. 315–316; Stannard 1992, p. 11). Estimates based on archaeological or historical evidence, in contrast, point toward a much smaller population at the time of contact, although here too figures vary depending on the estimation procedure used (Milner and Chaplin 2010; Ubelaker 1976, 1988). Attention directed toward narrowing the excessively wide estimate range, and doing so on a regional as well as continental basis, is more than quibbling over details. Furthering our understanding about what happened after contact to both indigenous peoples and the new arrivals requires a better grasp of conditions at the outset (Livi Bacci 2011). Because so much rests on the size and distribution of people at ca. AD 1500, there are good reasons for academics, at the very least, to get the story right. That simply cannot be done by relying on widely cited, but outdated, information. Fortunately, the situation is beginning to change through several decades of CRM projects that have transformed, at great cost and effort, what is known about the prehistoric and early historic indigenous peoples known through archaeological materials. That includes the size and spatial distribution of these groups (Anderson 1991; Milner and Chaplin 2010; Milner et al. 2001).

Intergroup Conflict Much the same can be said about the other main topic of this paper: intergroup conflict and its continuity from the precontact to postcontact periods. In recent years, it has become commonplace for archaeologists dealing with small-scale societies, including those from precontact eastern North America, to regard warfare as an important component of life. That was not always the case. The history of archaeological studies of conflict among such societies, at least in the English-speaking


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world, serves as a fine example of a remarkably Pollyannaish capacity of scholars and the public alike to see whatever they want to see in the distant past, regardless of evidence to the contrary. In this instance, it was long thought that the Eastern Woodlands prehistoric societies rarely fought one another, and when they happened to do so, it was of little consequence.4 A quarter century ago, Sale (1991, p. 318) could write in his widely acclaimed book that “[t]here is no very good proof that precontact societies engaged in warfare that was either common or particularly fierce, and the weight of evidence suggests that they were for the most part pacific.” This book reached a wider audience and was far more influential than any tightly focused article intended for an academic audience. As so often happens, pronouncements boldly stated without equivocation find broader acceptance than carefully wrought arguments burdened by evidence. The issue was complicated further by scholars who argued that historically and ethnographically documented fighting among small-scale societies was largely prompted by pressures stemming from the very societies that produced the observers who recorded the conflict (Ferguson 1990, 1992; Ferguson and Whitehead 1992). Because they were observing the effects of contact with their own societies, the writing of scientists, explorers, soldiers, and missionaries, among others, could be dismissed as having little or no bearing on the precontact situation. That line of argument, in effect, pacified the distant past. Archaeological information was needed to determine whether conflict was an important aspect of relations among prehistoric small-scale societies. A quarter century ago, however, pertinent archaeological evidence was in a state of disarray, making it difficult to determine if warfare commonly broke out among those groups or whether interactions among them were generally peaceful. Perhaps more importantly, the archaeological community did not regard the topic as one worth pursuing, as Keeley (1996) has so elegantly pointed out. The situation has now changed. Turning to the peoples of eastern North America, it is now known that they often fought one another, much like roughly comparable societies elsewhere in the world (Bridges 1996; Bridges et al. 2000; Milner 1999; Milner et al. 1991, 2013; Steadman 2008; Strezewski 2006). How fighting was conducted was broadly similar to what has been described in historical and ethnographic accounts of conflict among near-recent tribal-scale societies (Milner 2007; Milner and Ferrell 2011; Milner et al. 1991). Warfare was not restricted to eastern North America as it was relatively common across the continent, especially during late prehistoric times (Lambert 2012). But perhaps the pendulum has swung too far in popular perception, as exemplified by Pinker’s (2011) wildly successful book on long-term trends in violence  In the late 1980s when I first pointed out at a meeting of the Midwest Archaeological Conference that there was significant intergroup conflict in some parts of the prehistoric Eastern Woodlands, specifically western Illinois, the idea was met with widespread disbelief, if not outright scorn. The next time I did so, I took the precaution of clicking through numerous slides of arrowheads lodged in bones, crania with cuts from scalping, and the like. That prompted a dozen or more colleagues to seek me out afterwards and say something along the lines of the following: “If I had not seen it, I would not have believed it.” 4

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within and between societies. His work appropriately focuses on the historic period, especially the last few centuries. There is much of merit in his argument for what has taken place since medieval times in the Western world. In contrast, small-scale societies, especially those in prehistory, are only given cursory treatment, and by implication they are viewed as having been forever trapped in a state of Hobbesian warre. That is unfortunate because a uniformly warlike past does not appear to be any closer to the actual situation than one that was perpetually peaceful. Where sufficient archaeological evidence has been assembled, notably eastern North America, it is apparent that there was considerable variability in intergroup conflict from one place and time to another (Milner 1999; Milner et  al. 2013). Indeed, the identification and explanation of that variability over long periods of time and great expanses of land are where archaeology can make substantive contributions to our understanding of conflict’s place in intergroup relations (Lambert 2012; Milner 2007). Replacing speculation and poorly supported inferences with solid archaeological data will increase our understanding of the role of conflict among small-scale societies and its impact on them. There is every reason to believe, from eastern North America and elsewhere, that the picture will turn out to be more complex and interesting than simply thinking that small-scale societies possessed some special propensity for either war or peace.

Scenario Origin The population and warfare issues lead us to why the good-to-bad scenario developed in the first place. That is difficult to answer. Perhaps it has much to do with an all-too-common human tendency to romanticize the past, which extends to a prelapsarian world inhabited by healthy, happy, and peaceful people. Conflicts in the twentieth century, accompanied by great losses of life and miseries of all kinds, no doubt fueled wishful thinking that something was lost as societies evolved into larger and more complex sociopolitical systems (Keeley 1996, pp.  17–24, 163– 171). A lack of systematic archaeological attention prior to the 1990s allowed scholars, anthropologists among them, to argue that warfare among small-scale societies was of little importance, if they gave it any thought whatsoever. Popular writers quite naturally followed their lead. The question of precontact Indian numbers is inevitably related to the magnitude and timing of postcontact population loss. In marked contrast to celebrations a century earlier, the Columbian Quincentenary inspired sober reflection on the outcome of the European arrival in the Americas, including its impact on the size of the indigenous population (Alchon 2003, pp. 148–150). Because hard data on precontact Indian numbers were hard to come by a quarter century ago, there was little to constrain authors who were intent on advancing their points of view. Those favoring a large precontact population naturally turned to Dobyns (1983) who argued that much of what happened to reduce Indian populations, nothing short of catastrophe,


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took place soon after the European arrival, before there were abundant written records about what took place. A simple good-to-bad scenario makes some sense if precontact eastern North America was packed with people who maintained frequent contact with one another. Immediate postcontact population loss—the culprit could only have been widespread high-mortality epidemics—was necessary for the overall number of people to drop to a level consistent with early historic period accounts. This dramatic loss of life, and everything that went with it, would have been nothing short of horrific. What happened was in sharp contrast to the precontact situation that was so good the Eastern Woodlands could support an enormous number of people living in harmony with one another. Because relevant archaeological data were limited when the largest population estimates were proposed, there was little to constrain the imagination, especially regarding the precontact period. A long time might pass before more nuanced and empirically supported interpretations of what took place are widely accepted by the public. That is because archaeologists and biological anthropologists are their own worst enemies when it comes to making their findings widely known. The hard-earned results of projects that involved so much time, effort, and expense are widely scattered in rather dry reports and articles, many of which are difficult to access and directed toward narrow audiences. To make matters worse, the data produced are largely unorganized, and they are often not directly comparable. That combination stifles efforts to incorporate information from multiple projects into quantitatively based syntheses of what took place across large geographical areas over long periods of time. It should come as no surprise that the implications of this work are lost to all but academic specialists (Chap. 5).

Population Distribution By the 1980s, it was widely recognized by archaeologists that late prehistoric peoples in the Eastern Woodlands inhabited clusters of settlements that were unevenly distributed across the best land. The populated areas can be likened to beads on strings, with the latter being linearly oriented along resource-rich ocean and lake shorelines, as well as the many rivers that laced the interior (Anderson 1991, 1994; Milner and Chaplin 2010; Milner et al. 2001). Between these population aggregates were sparsely occupied areas encompassing highly productive land, such as river bottoms, as well as places that could not support year-around or long-term occupations, including vast tracts of upland forests and prairies. Unoccupied areas, however, were not ignored as they could be good hunting territories. Yet they were also hazardous places for individual hunters or small foraging groups who could find themselves situationally outnumbered by their enemies. Skeletal evidence indicates that people, including single-sex work parties, were ambushed at variable distances from their villages (Milner and Ferrell 2011; Milner and Smith 1989; Milner et al. 1991). Some victims of attacks were not immediately discovered, as indicated by

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burials of partly or completely skeletonized remains that had been gnawed by scavenging animals and exposed to the elements. These particular deaths presumably took place in rarely frequented places far from settlements, so bodies, or what remained of them, were difficult to find. Skeletal remains, therefore, provide direct evidence that vacant land was also dangerous land. The spatial distribution of settled areas did not remain fixed over time. That is a distinctly different perspective on settlement than what prevailed 40 to 50 years ago. At that time, there was a considerable emphasis on in situ cultural development and its corollary: geographically stationary populations. The emphasis on local development was a reasonable reaction to an even earlier tendency to attribute cultural change to the arrival of new peoples (Cobb 2005). In the early twentieth century, it was commonly assumed that specific groups of people were carriers of distinctive cultural baggage. Shifts over time in artifacts, architecture, and the like resulted from new waves of people, each with a distinctive way of life. Since the mid-1980s, however, it has been widely recognized that the locations of population concentrations, as well as the most powerful regional centers, changed from the eleventh through seventeenth centuries in the parts of the Midwest and Southeast dominated by Mississippian chiefdoms (Anderson 1994, 1996; Butler 1991; Conrad 1991; Goldstein and Richards 1991; Hally 1996; Harn 1994; Knight 1994; Knight and Steponaitis 1998; Milner 1998; Milner and Schroeder 1999; Scarry and Steponaitis 2016; Smith 1986; Williams and Shapiro 1996). Chiefdoms that varied greatly in the number of their inhabitants, capacity to devote labor to construct monuments, and the geographical extent of their reach rose asynchronously to regional prominence. After periods ranging from generations to centuries, these chiefdoms declined in importance, sometimes disappearing entirely. The result was a distribution of notable regional centers and their surrounding support populations that shifted over time, producing ever-changing constellations of large and small societies separated by infrequently used land, often vast expanses of it. Much the same was true of the Midwest, Northeast, and mid-Atlantic regions that were dominated by tribally organized societies. Perhaps the best-documented movements took place in southern Ontario and upstate New York among peoples known historically as the Huron and Iroquois (Snow 1994; Warrick 2008). Villages periodically shifted locations from one favorable place to another, crossing scores of kilometers when doing so. There was also directional population movement across long distances that fundamentally altered the regional distribution of archaeologically distinctive groups of people (Snow 1995b). The Carolina Piedmont is another intensively studied place where the geographical distribution of late prehistoric tribal-scale societies is known to have changed over time (Beck 2013; Ward and Davis 1993). Varied local population histories in these two areas are remarkable not because they occurred, but because they have been recognized. That can only happen with tight cultural chronologies and good survey coverages backed by numerous large excavations, a result of concerted efforts by many archaeologists. Areas partly or entirely vacated by earlier peoples might be later occupied by others. That happened in western Illinois where there was a southward movement of Oneota groups at ca. AD 1300 into an area that was once home to Mississippian


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chiefdoms (Conrad 1991; Harn 1994). That shift in population distribution is indicated by cultural materials, societal structure, and skeletal morphology (Esarey and Conrad 1998; Jackson 1992, 1998; Steadman 1998). It should not come as a surprise that such movement would be accompanied by intercommunity conflict (Milner et al. 1991; Milner and Ferrell 2011). Jockeying for advantageous positions must often have involved pushing other groups off their land or fleeing from enemies to safer places. Large areas also experienced population declines. Forty years ago it was proposed that there was a late prehistoric abandonment of much of the Ohio-Mississippi confluence region, often referred to as the Vacant Quarter (Williams 1980, 1990). Archaeologists today tend to agree with this assessment (Cobb and Butler 2002; Meeks and Anderson 2013). That was not true when the idea was first introduced. At meetings, there was grumbling that the apparent depopulation resulted from movement to distant parts of the midcontinent or to out-of-the-way places, such as uplands, not normally covered by archaeological surveys. Perhaps people started to reside in settlements that were so small they were archaeologically invisible. I did not think those arguments were reasonable at the time, and they make even less sense today considering the great amount of archaeological research that has been done and the success of pedestrian surveys in detecting even sparse scatters of material. It was also said that late prehistoric and protohistoric cultural materials, such as pottery, were simply not recognized as such (Lewis 1990). Whatever the merits of that argument for the Ohio-Mississippi confluence area, it strains credulity to believe that particular blindness extends to other parts of the midcontinent where chronological sequences based on local artifacts were developed by different researchers. Several decades after the Vacant Quarter was first proposed, the only real objection one might raise pertains to the size of the sparsely occupied area. As originally defined, the largely vacant area is much too small (Fig. 4.1). Instead of being focused on the Ohio-Mississippi confluence, it extended across much of the midcontinent, to judge from many hundreds of archaeological reports that have been examined in a search for evidence of early sixteenth-century occupation (Milner and Chaplin 2010; Milner et al. 2001). Although it has yet to be determined why this population decline took place, the mere fact that it occurred should come as no surprise. If one takes a global perspective, the drop in the precontact population is unusual in only one respect: it involved small-scale societies identifiable solely through archaeological remains. The time span and the spatial extent are by no means remarkable if we look at the historical record for various parts of the world. The Eastern Woodlands data are noteworthy only because they show that small-scale societies lacking contact with expanding colonial powers were not immune from events that could produce widespread population reductions. The decline in the midcontinental population took place at roughly the same time as a collapse of many once-powerful chiefdoms that had been distributed from southern Wisconsin to the Ohio-Mississippi confluence (Butler 1991; Conrad 1991; Goldstein and Richards 1991; Harn 1994; Milner 1998; Morse and Morse 1983; Pollack 2004; Schroeder 2004; Smith 1986). By the close of the fifteenth century, no such societies remained in the Midwest, although they were much in evidence

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Fig. 4.1  The distribution of early sixteenth-century population aggregates (black polygons) in eastern North America (Milner and Chaplin 2010, Fig. 1)

several centuries earlier. In the Southeast, however, many Mississippian chiefdoms were still in existence during the sixteenth century when they were encountered by Spaniards such as de Soto. Chiefdom disappearance, therefore, took separate paths in the Midwest and Southeast, with only the latter being attributable, in whole or in part, to the arrival of Europeans. The Midwest during the final centuries of prehistory was certainly not devoid of people (Drooker 1997; Overstreet 1999; Pollack 2004). But pockets of population were far fewer than they were previously when this same area encompassed some of the largest Mississippian chiefdoms to ever exist in the Eastern Woodlands. The earlier societies included one centered on Cahokia, the largest single site north of Mexico, and its many outlying affiliated settlements, some of which also featured earthen mounds that mark them as important places (Milner 1998). The populations of the temporally later clusters of settlements were also, on average, smaller than the earlier ones, which included those associated with the Cahokia, Kincaid, and Angel


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mound centers (Milner 1998; Muller 1986). The magnitude of population decline has not yet been estimated, although that would be possible following procedures outlined in Milner and Chaplin (2010) for early sixteenth-century occupations.5 The distribution of early sixteenth-century population aggregates in the sparsely settled midcontinent differed in one fundamental way from more densely occupied areas to the east and south (Milner and Chaplin 2010). In thinly occupied places, clusters of settlements were spaced farther apart from one another than they would have been by chance alone. In more heavily populated areas, settlement clusters were more closely spaced than if they had been randomly distributed. That means the response to the threat posed by enemies was different depending on the nature of occupation. Where overall population density was low, local groups put as much distance between themselves as possible. Distance provided a measure of safety. Where groups could not spread out, they instead tended to aggregate into separate clusters, with each cluster consisting of separate pockets of population. Being close together, relatively speaking, facilitated the formation of alliances for defense and the mobilization of formidable numbers of warriors. Regardless of what lay behind more intergroup conflict—and the reasons are imperfectly understood—troubled times influenced how people distributed themselves. In short, the movement of people in the historic period, which is increasingly becoming better understood (Smith 2002; Snow 1994), was not new. For the late prehistoric period, the details of changes over time in the distribution of occupied places have yet to be worked out in most places. Nevertheless, enough is known to say that during the final centuries of prehistory groups were constantly jostling for favorable locations, and the midcontinent witnessed a massive population decline. Local population movements throughout the Eastern Woodlands were accompanied by reconfigurations of overarching sociopolitical affiliations, although linkages among groups were often weak and temporary, and they were always subject to renegotiation as circumstances dictated (Anderson 1994, 1996; Knight 1994; Smith 2000; Snow 1994). These spatial and social dimensions of local group interaction were no doubt related to the ever-present threat of conflicts breaking out, which occurred regularly during the final centuries of prehistory (Milner 1999; Milner et al. 2013). It follows that population aggregates had more regular contact with at least some of their neighbors than they did with socially and geographically more distant groups. The overall picture is much different than what might be inferred from the 1960s and 1970s archaeological record in the near absence of fine temporal controls. At that time, it could be argued, although not entirely persuasively, that for the most part resource-rich areas had gradually and uniformly filled over time, so that by late

 Such work takes considerable time and effort, which is why comparable data are not available for the entirety of the late prehistoric period. Other reasons include a widespread disinterest in population-related issues and a preference for studying the characteristics of local occupations at the expense of developing quantitative assessments of how people were distributed across large geographical regions. 5

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prehistory equally productive places were equally occupied.6 Even in the best-­ known areas, the sheer size of favorable places that were unoccupied, including river valleys, was not recognized. A lack of information, therefore, lent a certain legitimacy to extrapolations from regional estimates of potential resource yields to population size, notably Dobyns’ (1983) figures for Florida and all of North America.

Warfare Archaeological evidence, especially information from skeletal remains, makes it abundantly clear that people in precontact eastern North America fought one another. More importantly, the overall pattern of conflict resembles closely what was recorded in historical and ethnographic accounts of small-scale society warfare in many parts of the world (Bridges 1996; Bridges et al. 2000; Milner 2007; Milner et al. 1991; Milner and Ferrell 2011; Steadman 2008; Strezewski 2006). The skeletal evidence indicates that fighting usually took place as ambushes that each produced no more than a few victims, presumably often targets of opportunity. These attacks, however, were occasionally punctuated by large numbers of deaths in what could only have been planned raids on situationally disadvantaged communities. That is consistent with the experience of a northern plains settlement where the remains of hundreds of individuals are indicative of a fourteenth-century massacre (Willey and Emerson 1993). Presumably the same occurred in eastern North America, much like it did among small-scale societies elsewhere in the world (Vayda 1974). Conflicts resulting in losses of life were more of a problem for some communities than for others, perhaps the great majority of them. In some places, conflict-related mortality could climb to levels that were as high as they were in the most conflict-prone small-scale societies from near-recent times. At least that appears to be the case when making due allowances for differences between ancient and modern samples in data quality, observed time intervals, and a lack of direct comparability between skeletons and either observed or remembered deaths.  The once-common assumption of continuous population growth and resource-rich places full of people was driven home to me when, in the early 1980s, I first presented newly generated data on the timing and magnitude of population decline in the Mississippi River valley near the large Cahokia mound center. I was told in no uncertain terms that it was impossible for populations to have declined during the final centuries of prehistory. The recently refined Cahokia-area ceramic chronology used to arrange sites in time must be wrong because it indicated a population reversal at the end of prehistory. As I recall, that conversation occurred at meeting of the Midwest Archaeological Conference. It would not have taken place at the Southeastern Archaeological Conference because by the mid-1980s a number of mostly young archaeologists—notably David G. Anderson (1994; Anderson et al. 1986)—were actively involved in laying out the evidentiary basis for volatile sociopolitical and demographic Mississippian period landscapes in the Southeast. This interest stemmed, in part, from an influential and innovative meshing of archaeological and historical records pertaining to sixteenth-century Spanish expeditions that penetrated deep into the Southeast (Hudson et al. 1985). 6


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The existence of intergroup fighting in the distant past, however, is not the entire story, nor is it even the most interesting one. There was considerable temporal and geographical variation in the likelihood that fighting among groups might break out (Milner 1999; Milner et al. 2013). Identifying and understanding this variability are the important questions regarding small-scale society warfare that should engage our attention. In the Eastern Woodlands, there is marked temporal and spatial variation in archaeologically visible signs of conflict: skeletons with distinctive forms of trauma, including projectile point injuries and body mutilation such as scalping, and defensive works surrounding settlements, specifically wooden palisades sometimes accompanied by earthen embankments and ditches (Milner 1999; Milner et  al. 2013). Looking at two kinds of evidence, bones and settlements, reduces the possibility that spatial patterning is solely a result of archaeological sampling biases. That would include regional variation in excavation strategies, specifically the intent of the work and the areal extent of excavations, hence the possibility that palisades would be recognized. Engagement with mortuary archaeology has also been uneven, and that affects the number of skeletons available for study and what was deemed important to include in site descriptions. Despite such problems, a suitably large study area helps when picking out a signal from noisy data. In this instance, it is hard to believe that patterns spanning multiple states are largely a result of systematically different research emphases because individual scholars or research teams tend to focus on particular portions of single states, not multiple contiguous states. Looking for patterns in this sort of archaeological information is a bit like viewing pointillist art. When close to the canvas, it is only possible to see a bewildering array of colorful dots. But at a distance images clearly emerge. The same is true of archaeological data: local details are obscure despite the general pattern being discernible. The most apparent sixteenth-century spatial pattern is a band of conflict-prone societies that arcs across the Eastern Woodlands (Milner et al. 2013). Its northeastern end is in southern Ontario and upstate New York, home to the historic period Huron and Iroquois (Fig. 4.2). It extends southward along the Appalachians, and its southwestern limit is in the lower Mississippi River valley, although there is a gap roughly centered on much of present-day Tennessee. Beyond being often embroiled in warfare, as a group these societies seemingly had little in common. Some can be classified as tribes and others as chiefdoms, and they had quite different forms of material culture, architecture, and settlement layouts. It is not known what the situation was like farther to the west, as similar information has not been systematically plotted for the plains. Nevertheless, there is clear evidence of intergroup conflict in the form of skeletal trauma and settlement defenses dating to the late prehistoric and protohistoric periods, notably in the middle Missouri River valley (Bamforth 1994; Owsley 1994; Willey and Emerson 1993). Within the part of the midcontinent delineated by the crescent of sixteenth-­ century conflict-prone societies, the land was largely depopulated relative to the situation elsewhere in the Eastern Woodlands (Milner and Chaplin 2010). Areas to the east and south were comparatively well populated, although here too the

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Fig. 4.2  The distribution of known palisaded settlements and skeletons with conflict-related trauma dating to the sixteenth century (Milner 2015, Fig. 2.2)

d­ istribution of people was discontinuous and large areas that had been occupied in previous centuries were devoid of people in the early sixteenth century (Anderson 1991, 1994). Abandoned places, including resource-rich land, resulted from the movement of population aggregates from one socially and environmentally ­favorable place to another, which had a long history in the Southeast. At this point,


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no massive depopulation similar to what took place across much of the midcontinent has been detected. Nor is it likely to be found, given the distribution of areas known to have been occupied.

Precontact Population and Warfare Within the midcontinent, cultural disruptions, including group movement and chiefdom dissolution in multiple places, extended back at least to the late thirteenth century (Esarey and Conrad 1998; Harn 1994; Jackson 1992, 1998; Milner 1998; Steadman 1998). This process was, at least at times, accompanied by considerable violence (Milner et al. 1991; Milner and Ferrell 2011; Steadman 2008; Strezewski 2006). The level of mortality, unpredictable and disruptive to household production and reproduction, was so great that it threatened the very existence of local communities as socially and economically viable entities. Precisely what initiated population decline and chiefdom collapse, the rate of change, and its timing across the region is not known. Climatic change, however, presumably played a part in the process, as archaeologists have long thought (Smith 1986). At the very least, societal changes occurred in many places at about the same time as conditions deteriorated following the Medieval Warm Period, which was when the distribution of Mississippian chiefdoms reached its maximum northward extent during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. No society would have had the reserves to adequately tide them over multiple back-to-back failures in acquiring sufficient amounts of food.7 What likely caused the most concern to Midwestern societies was variability in weather from one  year to the next during the transition into what is commonly referred to as the Little Ice Age after ca. AD 1300. It would have affected crop growing conditions along with wild plant and animal yields, to the detriment of people who relied solely on local resources for survival. Uncertainty no doubt elicited an understandable, if ultimately damaging, response in hungry people desperate to improve their lot. They encroached on the territories of their neighbors, and in so doing inevitably elevated intergroup tensions, especially when everyone was competing for the same scarce resources. Intergroup aggression was presumably related to resource failures as it was during lean times when the temptation to raid neighboring groups, or at least make use of the land they regarded as their own, was highest. The end result of harassment, inevitably followed by retaliation, was a greater risk of hardship for all. What lay behind any particular shortage did not really matter—that is, to people struggling for survival it made little difference whether the proximate cause was primarily

 In that respect, these groups were much like other traditional societies elsewhere in the world. That includes the peoples of medieval Europe who were feeling the effects of a climatic downturn at about the same time (Rosen 2014). 7

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climatic or social in origin—only that the frequency of back-to-back years of hardship increased. Chiefdoms were especially vulnerable in such difficult times. Highly ranked members of these societies partly justified their positions by an ability to negotiate with neighboring groups and to ensure that their followers were supplied, if not always plentifully, with food and other necessities of life (Anderson 1994; Milner 1998; Muller 1997a). Frequent food shortages and ever-present threats from enemies presumably eroded confidence in the efficacy of existing leaders, while they simultaneously provided opportunities for rivals, who enjoyed their own bases of support in faction-riven societies, to replace them. Over the long run, troublesome political relations did nothing to improve most people’s lives, and they likely contributed to further hardship. Deteriorating climatic conditions, increasing intergroup violence, and diminishing confidence in highly ranked people presumably acted in concert to hasten the disappearance of Midwestern chiefdoms from the late thirteenth century onward. The snapshot provided by the distribution of sixteenth century conflict-prone societies is best regarded as part of a centuries-long process (Fig. 4.2). Midcontinental societies were experiencing the ill effects of group dislocation and conflict. Those that made up the arc of conflict-prone groups were trying to hold onto the lands they traditionally occupied. They were prevented from distancing themselves from what was taking place in the midcontinent, even if they desired to do so, because land to the east and south closer to the Atlantic and Gulf coasts was already claimed by groups in what were still, relatively speaking, heavily populated areas.

Early Postcontact Events A heterogenous precontact social landscape, including a markedly uneven distribution of people, set the stage for what took place in the early postcontact period in the Eastern Woodlands. It affected the travels of early explorers, the spread of newly introduced infectious diseases, and the movement of native groups, among other events during the tumultuous period that followed the Europeans’ arrival. Over the past half-century, much attention has been focused on epidemic deaths, largely because of the better documented experiences of people elsewhere in the Americas, such as Mexico. It is also because disease outbreaks, with good reason, continue to engage our attention in the modern world (Chap. 5).

European Explorations Mid-sixteenth-century Spanish journeys deep into the Southeast were confined to the relatively well-populated Atlantic and Gulf coastal plain and piedmont, to as far inland as the southern Appalachians. By far the longest and best known expedition,


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de Soto’s unsuccessful attempt to find riches, entered the crescent of conflict-prone societies, but did not go beyond it (Hudson 1997, p. 148, 251, 2005; Hudson et al. 1985).8 There was no reason they should have done so. The expedition relied on native peoples for food and typically followed paths through thick forests from one group to the next while being led by guides, willing or not. The expedition’s route often took them through areas with relatively dense occupations. If nothing else, distances between population aggregates were, on average, shorter than they were in the midcontinent. The Spaniards’ dependence on native populations and what they could provide is shown by their unsuccessful attempt to travel overland to Mexico after crossing the Mississippi River. Vast expanses of thinly settled land eventually forced the surviving members of the de Soto expedition to turn back and find another way to New Spain. Over a century later, French explorers entered the midcontinent from the north, reaching and then going down the Mississippi River. In so doing, they encountered some large villages, but in general the land they saw was sparsely occupied (Bauxar 1978; Callender 1978; Mainfort 2001). A rather small population and discontinuous occupation were not new, as they had their origin in the final centuries of the precontact period. This situation was quite different from that of about a half millennium earlier when fertile river valleys in many places were, relatively speaking, full of people (Brown and Sasso 2001; Harn 1994; Milner 1998; Muller 1986; Schroeder 2004).

Populations and Disease A sparse occupation of the midcontinent would have impeded the spread of newly introduced infectious diseases that were directly transmitted from one person to the next (Milner and Chaplin 2010; Milner et al. 2001). Of special interest are acute crowd, or herd, infections that have short incubation and active symptom periods, including the great killers measles and smallpox. Population aggregates trying to distance themselves from one another, as indicated by their spatial distribution, would have diminished still further the chance of pathogens being transmitted from one group to another. The spatial distribution of people in the more heavily populated eastern and southern parts of the Eastern Woodlands was also discontinuous (Anderson 1991, 1994; Milner and Chaplin 2010; Milner et al. 2001). But here opportunities for a wide dissemination of pathogens were greater simply because there were more population aggregates, and many of them were clustered together and allied with one another. Nevertheless, the transmission of diseases from one spatially discrete group to the next could still break down.

 It was not the only Spanish expedition to do so, but none went beyond the arc of conflict-prone societies to enter the depopulated Midwest (Beck 2013, p. 71, 77, 79; Hudson 1997, p. 422). 8

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Moreover, the frequency, extent, and nature of face-to-face contact among these physically separated pockets of population must have played a part in an uneven spread of newly introduced communicable diseases during the early postcontact period. Poor intergroup relations would have impeded the transmission of diseases, such as measles, that required direct human contact among the members of far-flung population aggregates. In short, the distances between separately constituted groups, many of which maintained antagonistic relations with one another, would have interrupted the spread of crowd diseases that are widely believed to have caused early and massive losses of life. Just such a marked population decline, hard on the heels of the European arrival, was forcefully argued by Dobyns (1983, 1993) who envisioned pandemics sweeping repeatedly across much, if not all, of the continent. Those disease outbreaks supposedly caused a precipitous reduction in population size during the sixteenth century before Europeans had an opportunity to record what was taking place. The early and frequent pandemic scenario necessitates having many people distributed across essentially all productive land, and their presence ensured that intergroup contacts were sufficiently regular for acute crowd infections to spread across long distances. This point deserves emphasis because it lies at the heart of the argument for early and massive population loss. One cannot have a high precontact population without also saying that vast numbers of people died early on from newly introduced diseases. Disease outbreaks could not have developed into pandemics that repeatedly swept across the continent without a high population density and regular contact among groups in the first place. Inextricably linked, the two form a neat package, but it is one that is devoid of empirical support. Nowhere in the Eastern Woodlands is there evidence for the kind of occupation necessary for the early and frequent pandemic scenario. In fact, quite the opposite is indicated by archaeological surveys and excavations, many of them undertaken since the early pandemic-caused population crash was first proposed (Milner and Chaplin 2010; Milner et al. 2001). Furthermore, there is no solid evidence for massive disease-induced mortality linked to a widespread decline of the sixteenth-­ century Eastern Woodlands population (Hutchinson 2002; Snow 1996; Snow and Lanphear 1988; Snow and Starna 1989). Of course, those favoring the sixteenth-­ century pandemic scenario can always fall back to the position that high-mortality diseases left behind only a few survivors who were incapable of burying the dead. If that were true, then one might expect few signs of the presence of massive and widespread epidemic mortality. That position, however, is inherently weak and thoroughly unconvincing. It raises an absence of evidence of disease-related mortality to proof of pandemics sweeping unimpeded across much or all of the continent. All of this does not alter the horrific consequences of diseases such as measles and smallpox when they struck native communities. Nevertheless, it is more likely that the acute crowd infections, once introduced, spread irregularly among dispersed population aggregates. Some spatially discrete groups were affected during any particular disease outbreak, whereas others were not. That is consistent with archaeological evidence for the seventeenth-century appearance of epidemics in upstate


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New  York and southern Ontario, as well as the Carolina Piedmont (Jones 2010; Snow 1995a, 1996; Snow and Lanphear 1988; Snow and Starna 1989; Ward and Davis 1991, 1993, 2001; Warrick 2003, 2008). Other places, including those where strong chiefdoms were located, appear to have been struck earlier, beginning in the late sixteenth century (Knight 1994; Milner et al. 2001; Mires 1994; Smith 1987, 1994, 2000, 2001). In the Mississippi River valley, where de Soto encountered powerful and heavily populated chiefdoms in the mid-sixteenth century, the timing of decline has yet to be established (Mainfort 2001). But it certainly occurred well before the arrival of French explorers in the late seventeenth century. An irregular dissemination of high-mortality diseases would have crippled some populations while leaving others, for a time, still strong (Milner 2015). Depending on the timing of the disease outbreak, these groups might have experienced disruptions in the normal food-acquisition cycle, including planting, harvesting, gathering, and hunting, that would shortly thereafter have dire consequences for survivors. Suddenly weakened groups must have been irresistible targets to traditional enemies thirsting for revenge for any number of past grievances. The incorporation of native peoples into the economic and political agendas of European nations, which were then vying for ascendency on the continent, exacerbated poor relations that had existed among many groups for generations. Raiding that took advantage of situationally disadvantaged communities would have added to the woes of people hard-­ hit by epidemic disease. They were already suffering from the loss of people needed for essential household tasks, and further losses would have made their already perilous position that much worse.

Beyond Disease Mortality Although there is no way to quantify the various reasons why population numbers plummeted during the seventeenth century and beyond, it is likely that losses in the wake of epidemics were as bad as, if not worse than, those directly attributable to the initial disease outbreak. Whatever took place, disease, famine, war, and forced relocation had devastating and lasting consequences, such as those that crippled the seventeenth-century Huron (Trigger 1976; Warrick 2008).9 Bioarchaeologists and historians are increasingly attributing early historic period population decline and societal change in the Eastern Woodlands to both diseases and the machinations of European newcomers (Ethridge 2013; Hutchinson 2006; Kelton 2007; Larsen 2015). Slaving and raiding expeditions, regardless of whether they were undertaken by Europeans or their sometime native allies, are prominent among the latter. Forced resettlement and the appropriation of labor were also part of this process, especially in Spanish Florida. With regard to population decline, this  Nothing here is surprising because much the same happened in parts of contemporaneous Europe to people who were living in far different kinds of societies, only there historical documentation is plentiful (Parker 2013). 9

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work does not signal a return to a long-outmoded emphasis on human action to the exclusion of microorganisms. It does, however, strike a balance between the two. Conflict in its various forms—fighting prompted by long-standing grievances or European political and economic agendas, including slaving expeditions—was certainly an important aspect of postcontact life. Its effect on indigenous peoples extended beyond the immediate loss of life. Population estimates for entire groups and individual villages, for example, are indicative of efforts to maintain, or even enlarge, community sizes during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Muller 1997b; Snow 1995a, 1996). Large aggregations of people made it harder to obtain the local resources, including food and firewood, needed to survive. The threat posed by enemies must have been sufficiently great to put up with daily inconveniences in return for some measure of safety. Such reductions in resource-­acquisition efficiency and flexibility have yet to be estimated, but they must have affected the resilience of communities whose very existence hung in the balance. One might expect that if Indian populations had been left alone following their initial reductions they would have rebounded long before they did. That, of course, was not what happened. Groups were repeatedly buffeted by war, population dislocation that included the forced occupation of poor land, malnutrition, and recurring epidemics. It was only a century or so ago—well after the events that are the subject of this chapter—that surviving groups began to experience a significant rebound (Shoemaker 1999; Thornton 1987, 2005).

Group Movement Much of the narrative of postcontact Indian societies quite rightly features migrations. Early in the postcontact period people began moving into and through what was by then a largely vacant midcontinent (Bauxar 1978; Stone and Chaput 1978; Tanner 1987). They encountered vast areas available for occupation, if only in passing, as groups continued to push behind them. The picture of what happened, including relatively unimpeded travel across long distances and occupation of choice places, would presumably have been much different had this land been as thickly settled as it was several centuries earlier when it was home to some of the largest pre-Columbian societies to ever exist in the present-day United States. Although much remains to be learned about early postcontact shifts in population distribution, it appears that groups were moving into the Midwest by the mid-­ seventeenth century; that process would continue through the next century (Bauxar 1978; Brown and Sasso 2001; Mazrim and Esarey 2007; Stone and Chaput 1978; Tanner 1987). At least occasionally this movement involved the relatively rapid replacement of different groups of people. That appears to be the case from the artifact content of archaeological sites, such as those dating to the early seventeenth century in the vicinity of the southern end of Lake Michigan (Brown 1990; Brown and Sasso 2001). A quick infilling of highly desirable places had also taken place several hundred years earlier in western Illinois at the beginning of the m ­ idcontinental


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population decline (Esarey and Conrad 1998; Jackson 1992, 1998; Steadman 1998). Clearly movements of people, which in the historic period were often prompted by the direct and indirect effects of pressures originating in distant European settlements, were not solely a postcontact phenomenon.

Conclusion There are six main take-home messages. Most pertain specifically to the Eastern Woodlands, and sometimes the Americas more generally, whereas the last is widely applicable to archaeological research. It, in fact, represents a major challenge for archaeologists everywhere in the twenty-first century. First, what took place in the early postcontact period was influenced by prior conditions with deep roots in precontact times. Varied centuries-long histories of regional population growth and decline, intergroup relations, and societal organization set the stage for social and economic changes that occurred later. That is consistent with what some archaeologists have already argued (Brown and Sasso 2001; Knight 1994; Snow 1994), although there is now greater spatial resolution for both the distribution of people and conflict-prone societies. Changes were soon underway after Europeans arrived on the continent, and within a few centuries lifeways that had been millennia in the making were thoroughly transformed. What happened in the immediate postcontact period, however, cannot be understood without a better archaeological understanding of the several centuries that preceded it. Second, population declines that left vast areas thinly occupied were not solely a postcontact phenomenon. There is no doubt that the European arrival ultimately proved to be a disaster for the original inhabitants of eastern North America. The drop in population across a huge swath of the midcontinent, however, began well before Europeans arrived. A process that was more complex both geographically and temporally calls into question simple back projections based on fixed reduction rates that are applied uniformly to vast areas in order to estimate the number of people inhabiting precontact North America (Dobyns 1966, 1983). Third, determining why the precontact population in the midcontinent crashed is one of the most important issues now facing archaeological researchers in the eastern United States. It occurred at the same time as a climatic downturn. But climate change is unlikely to be the entire story, returning us to the human side of the equation. Most notable in that regard, or at least most archaeologically visible, is an increase in intergroup warfare that had devastating consequences for individual communities. There is every reason to believe that conflict was connected to population decline, to judge from its effect on individual communities (Milner and Ferrell 2011; Milner et al. 1991). Fourth, frequent early postcontact epidemics sweeping frequently and uniformly across huge areas, extending up to the entire continent, are not supported by archaeological evidence for population distributions and antagonistic intergroup relations that would have interrupted the transmission of pathogens from one place to another.

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Newly introduced diseases certainly contributed greatly to population decline. Nevertheless, the idea that pandemics repeatedly swept across the entirety of eastern North America, producing early and devastating reductions in population, does not square with archaeological evidence. The diseases no doubt spread into the interior beyond the keen of European observers, and they had terrible consequences. At some point, however, they would have been contained by the uneven distribution of pockets of population that often had only irregular contact with one another. An uneven spread of these diseases has implications for population estimation procedures that feature a massive and widespread reduction in indigenous peoples beginning early in the sixteenth century (Dobyns 1983). Fifth, antagonistic intergroup relations, to which can be added the depredations of European newcomers, must have contributed much to the losses experienced by indigenous communities during the postcontact period. Warfare-related mortality in precontact times could be high, and the effects of conflict have been well described in vivid eyewitness accounts of fighting and its aftermath, such as those by seventeenth-­ century Jesuits residing with the Huron. Groups embroiled in generations-­long conflicts, sometimes extending deep into the precontact period, would have been sorely tempted to target enemies weakened by disease-related mortality. Events that followed epidemics, which fingered their way irregularly into the continental interior, were likely to have been every bit as devastating as the immediate outcome of those diseases. Sixth, large geographical areas, such as the entirety of eastern North America, must be systematically examined to understand some aspects of past societies, including population trends and intergroup relations. When doing so, broadly applicable processes and events can be distinguished from purely local phenomena. These grand sweeping generalizations are precisely what engages the public and scholars in allied fields, not the minutiae that so often grabs the attention of regional specialists. There is, in fact, a real need for archaeologists, including bioarchaeologists, to produce authoritative, quantitatively supported, big-picture accounts of life in the past and how we ended up where we are today. That requires considerable work gathering information from source materials that only reside on museum and library shelves or in institutional, regional, and state-level databases that are structured differently from one another. While it is possible to assemble such data manually through great investments of time and effort (Anderson 1991; Milner et  al. 2013; Milner et al. 2001), sophisticated computer systems designed for that purpose are still beyond our immediate horizon in archaeology (Snow et al. 2006). Obtaining such data is perhaps the single greatest challenge facing archaeologists in the coming decades. Acknowledgments  In addition to the volume editors who invited me to participate in an American Anthropological Association session where a short version of this chapter was presented, I would like to thank George Chaplin who produced the figures used in this chapter for other papers.


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Chapter 5

Misconceptions About the Bioarchaeology of Plague Sharon DeWitte

Introduction Bioarchaeological and paleomicrobiological research is yielding important new information about past epidemics, and much of this research has generated considerable public interest. Historical plague epidemics including the medieval Black Death (c. 1346–1352, the first outbreak of the Second Pandemic of bubonic plague) have, in particular, attracted the attention of researchers and the general public because of their extraordinarily high mortality levels and the important effects they had (or are purported to have had) on demographic, social, economic, and political conditions in affected populations in Eurasia and Africa. Bioarchaeological reconstructions of temporal trends in mortality, survivorship, and skeletal markers of physiological stress during the medieval period have made it possible to assess earlier conditions that might have shaped patterns of vulnerability to a new disease, patterns of selective mortality during the epidemic, and changes in demographic and health conditions in its aftermath (Castex and Kacki 2016; DeWitte 2014, 2015; DeWitte and Wood 2008; Rubini et al. 2016). Analyses of mortuary practices during historical plague epidemics, particularly patterns of burials in mass interments or burial grounds created specifically for plague burials, provide insights into how people in the past planned for or responded to catastrophic mortality (Castex 2008; Grainger et al. 2008; Kacki et al. 2011; Signoli et al. 2002). Mortuary practices also reflect beliefs people in the past held regarding the mechanisms of disease transmission. For example, the relatively high proportion of coffin burials in the East Smithfield Black Death cemetery in London (Gilchrist and Sloane 2005; Sloane 2011) was consistent with orders issued in many cities to use coffins to prevent corruption from rotting plague victims (Creighton 1891). Paleomicrobiological research has clarified the identity and phylogeny of the causative pathogen of past S. DeWitte (*) Department of Anthropology, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, USA e-mail: [email protected] © Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019 J. E. Buikstra (ed.), Bioarchaeologists Speak Out, Bioarchaeology and Social Theory,



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plague epidemics, Yersinia pestis, and genomic sequencing and array-based analyses are creating opportunities to examine the molecular biology and disease ecology of historical strains of the disease (Bos et al. 2011, 2016, 2015; Devault et al. 2014; Haensch et al. 2010; Raoult et al. 2000; Schuenemann et al. 2011). Rich documentary, archaeological, bioarchaeological, and climatological data from the medieval period allow us to reconstruct in great detail the biological, social, and environmental contexts that existed before, during, and after the Black Death. Detailed reconstructions of the contexts of the Black Death and of its variable effects on human populations are invaluable not only for improving our understanding of this particular outbreak, which was one of the most important disease epidemics in human history, but also for allowing us to generalize about contemporary conditions for which there are parallels in the medieval period. Research on past epidemics, including historical plague outbreaks, therefore has the potential to yield benefits for living populations, several of which are described by DeWitte (2016) and are discussed in more detail below. The findings from research on disease in the past are often reported in the popular media (see examples below). Such reporting should, in theory, be welcome because it increases the likelihood that the results of this work will reach the public and scholars outside of our own fields, which is crucial for reasons that are outlined below. Unfortunately, the content or broader implications of our work are not always reported in the media accurately or in ways with which we agree. This is frustrating as it might spread misconceptions among people who will not engage with our research further and who thus misconceive what we do and why it matters. Importantly, inaccurate media reporting has the potential to interfere with implementing potential benefits of our research and might negatively affect future research. In this paper, I focus on research on the Black Death and other historical plague epidemics as an example of how bioarchaeological and paleomicrobiological work has been and can be misinterpreted and to explore the potential negative outcomes of media misconceptions. I also suggest strategies that bioarchaeologists in general might use in an effort to combat and correct these misconceptions.

Bioarchaeology and Paleomicrobiology of Plague My research on medieval skeletal samples (c. 1000–1539 AD) has focused on the context of the initial emergence of the fourteenth-century Black Death in London, patterns of variation in risk of mortality during the epidemic, and changes in health and demography in the surviving population of London. I have applied hazard analysis-­based approaches, which are arguably more efficient and informative ways to assess skeletal data compared to conventional life table-based approaches (Konigsberg and Frankenberg 2002; Milner et al. 2008; Wood et al. 2002). I have used these approaches to assess mortality patterns in relatively large skeletal samples from London that date to one of the three time periods: 1000–1250 AD (pre-­ Black Death), 1349–1350 AD (Black Death), and 1350–1539 (post-Black Death).

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The Black Death assemblage is from the East Smithfield cemetery, a burial ground established explicitly for and used only during the epidemic in London (Grainger et al. 2008). The other assemblages reflect attritional, non-epidemic mortality and contain a combination of lower and higher status individuals, clergy and lay individuals, both sexes, and all age groups. These skeletal collections, though subject to the sources of bias inherent to all archaeological skeletal samples (see Milner et al. 2008), provide better representations of the once-living medieval population than are available from existing documentary sources from that period, which are biased in general toward wealthy men. Thus this work, as is true of more generally of many bioarchaeological studies, provides the opportunity to challenge interpretations about medieval plague that have been based entirely on documentary evidence.

Black Death Selectivity The results of my work and that of my colleagues have challenged the often-made assumption that the Black Death was an indiscriminate killer. This assumption of nonselectivity is understandable given the extraordinarily high levels of mortality during the epidemic, which ranged from 30% to 60% and resulted in tens of millions of deaths within a very short time. This assumption is also the foundation for the hypothesis that Black Death burial grounds provide “snapshots” of once-living populations (e.g., see Chamberlain 2006; Margerison and Knüsel 2002), i.e., samples that are much more representative of living populations than we typically expect from skeletal assemblages that accumulate under normal mortality conditions and are subject to the complicating phenomena of heterogeneous frailty, selective mortality, and demographic non-stationarity (Milner et al. 2008; Wood et al. 1992). However, rather than finding consistent signals of uniform risks of mortality, our results suggest that older adults faced higher risks of mortality during the epidemic than younger adults, as is typically observed under conditions of normal, non-crisis mortality (DeWitte 2010). My colleagues and I also compared individuals with and without a variety of skeletal stress markers (e.g., enamel hypoplasia, cribra orbitalia, short adult stature, periosteal new bone formation), which indicate exposure to a variety of physiological stressors, in both the East Smithfield Black Death cemetery and a non-epidemic medieval cemetery sample. We found that in both mortality contexts, people of all ages who experienced physiological stressors at some point before (in some cases decades before) the arrival of the epidemic were subsequently more likely to die during the Black Death compared to their age peers who lacked these stress markers and thus presumably avoided exposure to physiological stress or endured the stressors without producing skeletal markers (DeWitte and Hughes-Morey 2012; DeWitte and Wood 2008). This suggests that the Black Death, like non-epidemic causes of medieval mortality, disproportionately killed frail individuals. These findings suggest that we should not assume indiscriminate (nonselective) mortality under catastrophic (or, for that matter, normal) conditions. It should be noted that other researchers, who have focused on fourteenth-century


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plague burials in England (Hereford), Spain, and France, have found that the age distributions in plague burials mimic those of living populations, which suggests reduced selectivity with respect to age during the epidemic compared to non-­ epidemic mortality conditions (Castex and Kacki 2016; Gowland and Chamberlain 2005; Margerison and Knüsel 2002). The variation in these findings might be the result of differences in analytical approaches or, in some cases, perhaps reflect spatiotemporal variation in the effects of medieval plague.

Pre-Black Death Trends (c. 1000–1350 AD) More recent bioarchaeological work indicates that adult survivorship declined and risks of adult mortality increased in London before the Black Death across the period from 1000 to 1250 AD (DeWitte 2015). Assessment of fertility proxies [the proportion of individuals above the age of 30 divided by those above the age of 5, D30+/D5+, a ratio that is strongly negatively associated with birth rates (Buikstra et al. 1986)] suggests that the estimated changes in survivorship and mortality were not an artifact of increases in fertility across the pre-Black Death time period [such attempts to control for fertility are necessary in bioarchaeology given that changes in fertility can alter age-at-death distributions even if age-specific mortality does not change (Milner et al. 1989; Paine 1989; Sattenspiel and Harpending 1983)]. Historical evidence dating from the late thirteenth century through the mid-­ fourteenth century reveals general declines in life expectancy from 1276 though the time of the Black Death (at least for adult males—i.e., the demographic predominantly represented in medieval documentary data) (Jonker 2003, 2009; Russell 1948). Thus, it appears from the historical evidence that the trends estimated from the bioarchaeological data did not reverse just before the Black Death. That is, demographic conditions in England began deteriorating at least as early as the first half of the thirteenth century and continued to do so until the epidemic began. These negative demographic changes occurred in the context of climatic changes that produced repeated famines (DeWitte 2015). Temperatures in England peaked at the end of the twelfth century (during the Medieval Warm Period) and then dropped rapidly from the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries (Brooke 2014; Galloway 1986). The cooler temperatures in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries contributed to repeated, widespread famines (Farr 1846). These famines were accompanied by severe declines in England’s economic conditions (Campbell 2005, 2010). For example, between 1200 and 1300, real wages declined, while prices increased (Campbell 2010; Clark 2005; Farmer 1988). In an effort to raise funds at the beginning of the Hundred Years’ War (1337–1453), King Edward III of England more than quadrupled the country’s annual tax burden between 1337 and 1341 (Campbell 2016). Population growth and simultaneous increases in taxes, rent, and grain prices in the twelfth to thirteenth centuries created stark social inequalities, notably with respect to food availability. Food crises in preindustrial populations appear to have disproportionately affected mortality risks

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within lower socioeconomic strata (Hayward et  al. 2012). Given the negative effects of malnutrition on immunocompetence (Scrimshaw et al. 1968), the confluence of climate change-driven famine, the interaction of famine and disease, decreasing real wages, and increasing social inequities might have substantially, negatively affected health in the pre-Black Death period. Longevity (life expectancy) and mortality are commonly used as measures of general population health for contemporary populations (Gage 2005). As detailed above, there is documentary evidence that life expectancy declined from the end of the thirteenth century until the Black Death. This, combined with the downward trends in survivorship and increasing risks of mortality estimated from the skeletal data, suggests that health in general declined before the Black Death emerged in the fourteenth century. Such declining health might have exacerbated vulnerabilities to a new disease at the eve of the Second Pandemic of plague (DeWitte 2015). One of the defining characteristics of the Black Death was its extraordinarily high mortality. The medieval epidemic killed 30–60% of the population of Europe, a level which was unmatched by any subsequent outbreaks of plague. For example, three major plague epidemics occurred in London in the 1600s (including the Great Plague of London in 1665), each of which killed about one-fifth of the city’s population at the time (Cummins et al. 2016). More recently, but still prior to antibiotic treatments, outbreaks of the Third Pandemic of plague in India in the early twentieth century killed no more than 2–3% of affected populations (Plague Research Commission 1907). This level of mortality, while certainly horrifying in terms of absolute numbers of people killed, is substantially lower than that of the Black Death. The high mortality levels of the Black Death appear not to be explained by a particularly virulent strain of Y. pestis in the medieval period. Comparison of the strain of Y. pestis that caused the Black Death (assembled from endogenous Y. pestis sequences isolated from individuals buried in the East Smithfield cemetery) and modern reference strains of the disease has yielded no evidence that there was a genetic variant unique to the fourteenth-century strain that rendered it more deadly than modern stains (Bos et al. 2011). Rather than having been caused by some factor intrinsic to the pathogen itself, the extraordinarily high mortality levels of the Black Death may be more appropriately attributed to weakened immune responses of people debilitated by years of famine-induced nutritional stress. Worsened by stark social inequities, the epidemic became vastly more deadly than it might have been, had it struck a more robust or resilient population.

Post-Black Death Trends (c. 1350–1539 AD) By killing large numbers of people of all ages who were in relatively poor health, the medieval epidemic might have powerfully shaped patterns of health and demography in the surviving population, producing a post-Black Death population that differed, at least over the short term, from the population that existed before the epidemic. Bioarchaeological analyses reveal that following the epidemic (at least


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from 1350 to 1539 AD), adult survivorship was higher and adult risks of mortality were lower than they were in the pre-Black Death population. This suggests that health in general improved following the Black Death (DeWitte 2014). As with the study of pre-Black Death demographic trends, these post-epidemic trends do not appear to be artifacts of differences in fertility between the pre- and post-Black Death populations. There are several possible mechanisms that might have produced these positive changes. The Black Death might have shaped population patterns by altering exogenous factors that affected health and demography, such as improved standards of living, including better, more nutritious diets for people of all socioeconomic strata. In some regions of Europe, including England, there is evidence from historical documents that standards of living improved following the Black Death as a result of the depopulation that occurred during the epidemic. The huge loss of life during the Black Death disrupted the pre-epidemic conditions of a population that was too large relative to the available resources (under the existing system of agriculture) and economic inertia (Bridbury 1973; Campbell 2016; Epstein 2000). The medieval system of serfdom was no longer sustainable following the Black Death in the face of the resulting severe shortage of laborers. There was a major redistribution of wealth as wages increased dramatically at the same time that prices for food, goods, and housing decreased (Bailey 1996). As a result, housing and diet improved for people of all social status levels (Dyer 2002; Hatcher 1977; Poos 1991; Postan 1950; Rappaport 1989; Stone 2006). Diet plays an important role in determining immunocompetence and health in general. Poor nutritional status during development of the immune system can have permanent negative effects on immunocompetence, and nutritional status can also have immediate (though potentially reversible) immune suppressive effects throughout an individual’s life (McDade 2005; Scrimshaw 2003; Spencer 2013). Therefore, improvements in diet after the Black Death may have had substantial positive effects on general levels of health in the latter half of the medieval period. Elevating diet quality for lower status individuals to the level previously enjoyed by higher status people might have meant that a much larger proportion of the post-Black Death population of England was in generally good health or at least was at lower risk of poor health outcomes associated with malnutrition compared to the preBlack Death population. Alternatively, improvements in survivorship and mortality after the Black Death might indicate that the epidemic acted as an agent of natural selection. Given that people of all ages, including reproductive-aged individuals, with relatively high frailty were at elevated risks of mortality during the Black Death, the epidemic might have affected genetic variation with respect to disease susceptibility or immunocompetence and thus acted to reduce average levels of frailty in the surviving population. Post-Black Death demographic changes might also represent a short-­ term “harvesting” effect of the epidemic [i.e., an increase in mortality among people with compromised health (Sawchuk 2010)]. The observed improvements in the post-Black Death period might also reflect migration into the city, specifically the introduction of large numbers of healthy people to London after the epidemic.

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Teasing apart and identifying the possible mechanisms that drove demographic changes and, by inference, improvements in general health in the aftermath of the Black Death awaits further research.

Paleomicrobiology of Plague Burials from historical plague epidemics provide the means for directly examining the responsible pathogen, Yersinia pestis (the same bacterium that causes bubonic plague today). Thus far, ancient DNA studies have isolated Y. pestis DNA from burials dating to the Bronze Age (Rasmussen et al. 2015), the sixth-century Plague of Justinian (Wagner et al. 2014; Wiechmann and Grupe 2005), the Black Death (Bos et al. 2011; Haensch et al. 2010; Raoult et al. 2000; Schuenemann et al. 2011), and later outbreaks of plague in the fourteenth-century (Bos et  al. 2016), the seventeenth-­century (possibly the Great Plague of London c. 1665–1666) (Bos et al. 2017), and the eighteenth-century Great Plague of Marseille (Bos et al. 2016; Drancourt et al. 1998). These paleomicrobiological studies have been crucial for resolving long-­standing debates regarding the identity of the causative agent of historical plague epidemics. The cause was previously in doubt because, among other reasons, there are differences between the symptoms of modern plague and those described during historical plague epidemics, and the medieval disease spread much more rapidly than has been observed in outbreaks caused by Y. pestis in the nineteenth to twenty-first centuries (Scott and Duncan 2001; Twigg 1984). Not only have ancient DNA studies found Y. pestis DNA in historical plague burials, but a draft genome of fourteenth-­ century Y. pestis assembled from authentic endogenous pathogen DNA from East Smithfield has, as mentioned above, revealed that the Black Death was caused by a strain that differed very little from strains circulating today. Furthermore, ancient DNA studies have suggested that the earliest known plague pandemic (the Plague of Justinian) and the Second Pandemic (which began with the Black Death) were the result of independent introductions of the disease from rodent reservoirs in Asia, but that plague in contemporary populations is likely derived from strains that circulated during the Second Pandemic (Bos et al. 2016; Wagner et al. 2014).

Benefits to Living People As is true of other topics studied by bioarchaeologists (e.g., interpersonal and structural violence, the effects of environmental change, migration), research on disease in the past has the potential to improve our understanding of phenomena that people experience today in ways that may yield tangible benefits to them now or in the future. These benefits include revealing how the diseases that currently affect humans originally spread to, within, and between human populations. This research also clarifies the environmental, biological, social, economic, and political contexts that favor the


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emergence, epidemicity, and endemicity of disease. Further, it reveals the biological, social, economic, and political consequences of disease and how these consequences have varied across time and space. All of this is important for understanding how and why new diseases may emerge or reemerge and affect us in the future; this, in turn, can contribute to prevention, surveillance, and control measures. Research on past diseases can reveal patterns of socially or biologically determined variation in risk of morbidity and mortality during epidemics, and, ideally, this knowledge can motivate us to implement strategies to reduce the devastating effects of disease epidemics in the future. For example, as described above, research on the medieval Black Death suggests that the epidemic disproportionately killed frail people, including those who experienced nutritional deprivations in childhood. These results suggest that we should expect such variation in risk of mortality, regardless of the context (DeWitte and Wood 2008). By identifying who might be most vulnerable during epidemics and which factors most significantly affect negative health outcomes or risk of mortality or simply by highlighting the possibility that variation in risk might exist in general, research on past epidemics can help motivate us to take measures to reduce morbidity and mortality in the face of future threats, such as reducing social inequalities in access to food and other resources and making concerted efforts to improve childhood health and nutrition globally. Paleomicrobiological research can clarify how humans and the causative pathogens of past and present epidemics have coevolved and may provide data that are useful for predicting future genetic changes in pathogens (Anastasiou and Mitchell 2013). Detailed reconstruction of ancient pathogen genomic sequences also provides data that could aid in the development of vaccines and drug therapies (e.g., Ifeonu et al. 2016; Moriel et al. 2010; Seib et al. 2009; Sette and Rappuoli 2010). Genomic data from contemporary pathogens has been used to identify antigens for vaccines (Giuliani et al. 2006; McKevitt et al. 2003; Moriel et al. 2010), and the drug ST-246, developed using pathogenic orthopoxvirus genomic data, was used to treat a child who developed life-threatening eczema vaccinatum after exposure to the smallpox vaccine (Vora et al. 2008; Yang et al. 2005). Ancient DNA research can contribute valuable data on pathogen sequence variation that might prove similarly useful in the future. For example, the identification of antibiotic-resistance genes in ancient bacterial DNA isolated from an eleventh-century Andean mummy informs about the evolution of antibiotic resistance in the pre-antibiotic era. It might contribute to the development of treatments and prevention of infection in the future (Santiago-Rodriguez et al. 2015; see also D’Costa et al. 2011).

 edia Reporting on the Bioarchaeology M and Paleomicrobiology of Plague The results of many bioarchaeological and paleomicrobiological studies of historical plague epidemics have been reported in the popular media following publication in professional journals or presentation at professional conferences. Public

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dissemination of these findings is crucial if the potential benefits of research on past diseases are to be realized. For example, efforts to use the Black Death as a case study to inspire further research or to motivate efforts to mitigate disasters in living populations will not come to fruition if our work is only read by a small, exclusive audience of bioarchaeological experts. Furthermore, dissemination of our findings to the public is important, given that in many cases such research is made possible by federal funding or other public funds. Even if members of the general public are not actively choosing to support our specific research projects, they arguably have the right to access these results. Media reporting of bioarchaeological plague research also contributes to legitimizing anthropological research in the public’s eye and thus strengthens or expands public support. Public dissemination of research also facilitates multi- and interdisciplinary research, as it can forge connections among scholars with relevant expertise who might otherwise be unaware of each other’s work. For example, media reporting of my research brought it to the attention of risk management experts, scholars who are far outside my own field, whom I would not interact with under normal circumstances (e.g., at professional conferences), and with whom I have little overlap from a conventional perspective. This led to a publication (DeWitte et  al. 2016) that brings together our disparate research interests and applies the insights gained from research on past diseases to planning efforts in living populations. As in this case, media reporting provides us with new perspectives and can spark creative, interdisciplinary “out of the box” thinking. Because there is widespread fascination with the Black Death, the interest that my work and that of other bioarchaeologists and paleomicrobiologists has sparked in the popular press does not come as a complete surprise. However, I did not (perhaps naïvely) anticipate the ways in which the results of my own work would be reported (see Fig.  5.1). In many cases, the headlines and text of articles in the popular media were fairly accurate representations of the substance of my findings, if perhaps lacking in nuance, which is quite understandable given the space limitations of media venues and their presumably primarily nonspecialist readership. For example, our evidence that suggested that risks of mortality varied during the Black Death led to headlines such as “Clues to Black Plague’s fury in 650-year-old skeletons” (Bakalar 2008) and “Black Death was Selective” (Moskowitz 2008). Recent research indicating that survivorship was elevated and risks of mortality were lower in the post-Black Death population of London than in the pre-Black Death population was reported with such headlines as, “Study suggests improved survivorship in the aftermath of the medieval Black Death.” This was the headline of a PLOS press release on May 7, 2014, which was reposted on various websites, such as and While this headline might not necessarily effectively grab every reader’s attention, it certainly clearly reflects the findings. This research was also reported in an online article with the arguably problematic headline, “Black Death: The upside to the plague killing half of Europe,” written by Alex Berezow for (May 12, 2014) and reposted by several other news websites, such as This and other sensationalized accounts presented the Black Death as ultimately good for affected


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Fig. 5.1  Selected headlines reporting bioarchaeological and paleomicrobiological research. Modified from Eugen Holländer (1921) Die Karikatur und Satire in der Medizin: Medico-­ Kunsthistorische Studie von Professor Dr. Eugen Holländer, 2nd Edition (Stuttgart:Ferdinand Enke), Fig. 79 (p. 171)

populations because it disproportionately killed frail individuals or produced a better balance between population size and resources. These and similar headlines heightened my concern about media representations of bioarchaeology. From an anthropological and public health perspective, one of the most important findings from bioarchaeological research on the Black Death is the observation that poor health conditions, including compromised health in childhood, in the pre-­ Black Death population, potentially influenced by the stark socioeconomic disparities preceding the epidemic, might have favored high epidemic mortality. As detailed above, bioarchaeological and historical evidence indicates that there was a long downward trend in survivorship and increases in risks of mortality prior to the Black

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Death, and these changes occurred in the context of climatic changes and increasing social inequities in access to resources. Subsequently, during the Black Death, people who had skeletal indicators of exposure to physiological stressors at some point before the epidemic (including during childhood) faced elevated risks of morality during the epidemic itself compared to those who appeared relatively healthy. The dramatic estimated differences between the pre- and post-epidemic populations might largely reflect poor general health conditions prior to the Black Death that were presumably mediated, at least in part, by socioeconomic status. Furthermore, reduced social inequities (e.g., in dietary quantity and quality) following the Black Death might have promoted improved general health. That is, the demographic and health outcomes we can observe from the skeletal remains and historical documents following the Black Death were likely driven partly by changing socioeconomic conditions. As is true of all diseases, the Black Death did not occur within a vacuum, and there were almost certainly factors totally independent of the disease itself that amplified human mortality levels. Therefore, we should primarily be concerned with the conditions, particularly those that still exist today or that have the potential to reemerge in the future, that might have made these populations vulnerable to massive mortality when exposed to a new disease. We should also be concerned with the mechanisms by which diseases dramatically shape human populations, not by themselves, but as one component within a larger syndemic [i.e., the synergistic interactions, often in the context of disparate social conditions, of multiple diseases or health problems that exacerbate their negative outcomes (Singer 2010)]. Ideally this information will allow us to enact changes so that such disasters can be avoided or mitigated in the future. It is not my goal to deny that improved survivorship following the Black Death was a positive outcome for those who experienced improved health and thus longer lives. I acknowledge that this perspective defines “positive outcomes” only in terms of demography and, largely by inference, health, thus totally ignoring possible psychosocial stressors and other factors that medieval people themselves might not have viewed as positive in the aftermath of the Black Death. Setting aside the difficult issue of assessing health and self-ascribed well-being solely using human skeletal remains (Reitsema and McIlvaine 2014; Temple and Goodman 2014; Wood 1998), of primary concern to me is the apparent tendency of some journalists and other consumers of this research to move from a perspective of viewing the outcomes of the Black Death as positive to framing the Black Death itself as “good” because it created conditions such as reduced population size relative to resources that made improvements in health possible. Media emphasis on the perceived “benefits” of the Black Death and on the characterization of the Black Death as having been “good” for the affected populations diverts attention from the insight that decreased social inequities in access to food or other resources might have resulted in lower mortality rates during the epidemic. This undermines the potential for this insight to motivate efforts to reduce social inequities today. Numerous studies have revealed the myriad ways that socioeconomic status affects health outcomes associated with infectious disease, chronic disease, violence, pollution, and other factors. For example, diseases such as cardiovascular


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disease, diabetes, cancers, and infectious diseases are more prevalent in low socioeconomic status groups, and pathogen burdens are also higher for people of low socioeconomic status in contemporary populations (Cavigelli and Chaudhry 2012). In many countries socioeconomic status is strongly, positively associated with life expectancy and negatively associated with risks of mortality (Cavigelli and Chaudhry 2012; Phelan et al. 2010; Robertson et al. 2013). The negative effects of inequality are not limited to individuals of low socioeconomic status. Studies have found spillover effects of inequality on general population health resulting, for example, from environmental degradation and pollution (Cushing et al. 2015). The negative health effects of low socioeconomic status and economic inequality in general might appear unresolvable given current conditions of staggering global inequality. According to a recent report by Oxfam (Hardoon 2017), the current combined wealth of just eight men is estimated to be equivalent to that of the poorest half of the world’s population (approximately 3.6 billion people). The existence of such extreme global social inequalities is shocking, and unfortunately the observed trend in recent history has been one of increasing inequalities. However, according to the Oxfam report, conditions of poverty for hundreds of millions of people worldwide could be remedied with increased taxation, reduced spending on military, and other measures. So, what we are faced with today are conditions of stark social inequalities, as was the case before the Black Death, but with the theoretical means to do something to improve conditions for the poor. Perhaps a greater understanding of the effects of inequality on mortality during the Black Death, a disease that people find fascinating, might inspire the will to resolve global economic inequalities and, as a consequence, health disparities. But, this is possible only if the general public and policy makers have a clear understanding of the social and economic context of the Black Death. In addition to potentially interfering with the beneficial implementation of knowledge about the role of social inequality at the time of the Black Death, framing the epidemic as “beneficial” also fails to acknowledge that any positive outcomes of the epidemic were certainly not worth the huge cost of millions of human deaths. Without explicit statements to this effect, however, media reporting of the “benefits” of the Black Death might lead people to view my colleagues and I who study the epidemic, and other bioarchaeologists by extension, as callous scientists, impervious to the loss of life and psychosocial trauma associated with disease and other crises in the past and present. This might negatively influence further research on disease in the past, if, for example, people are reluctant to support funding the work of scholars whose worldview they perceive as distasteful. As with bioarchaeological research, ancient DNA studies of past plague epidemics have been reported in the popular media to both good and bad effect (see Fig. 5.1). For example, the discovery of Y. pestis DNA in burials dated to the Great Plague of London (1665–1666) led to straightforward, accurate reporting with headlines such as the following: “DNA from ancient skeletons reveals cause of London’s Great Plague” (Senthilingam 2016). Similarly, the publication of a draft genome of fourteenth-century Y. pestis (Bos et  al. 2011) led to a report that “Scientists solve DNA puzzle of the Black Death” (Wade 2011). At the other end of

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the sensationalism spectrum, evidence of Y. pestis DNA in sixth-century Plague of Justinian burials was reported with the headline, “Scientists revive ancient plague that wiped out half of Europe” (Scientists revive ancient plague 2011). According to that article, “Scientists have brought the world’s first known plague—responsible for killing more than 25 million people—back from the dead.” Reader comments accompanying the online article express alarm that scientists would risk “reviving” a deadly disease. One commenter encouraged others to read the original article, which makes clear that the researchers succeeded in reconstructing the genome of sixth-century Y. pestis, but they have not produced an actual living, infectious organism capable of causing disease in people today. However, this comment is outnumbered by those expressing outrage and alarm regarding the apparent hubris displayed by the scientists involved in the ancient DNA research. It is possible that the patently false idea that ancient DNA researchers would purposefully “revive” a pathogen that had such extraordinarily dire consequences in the past and risk unleashing it onto living populations would fan the flames of distrust of scientists among some readers, leading to future refusal to engage with scientific research and undermine efforts to support it financially. We literally cannot afford to be complacent about the effects that peoples’ perceptions of our research might have on funding opportunities. This is increasingly crucial in light of widespread antiscience sentiment in the USA and elsewhere, as most recently highlighted by the antiscience and anti-intellectualism rhetoric used during the 2016 US presidential campaign. Both President Trump and Vice President Pence have a record of dismissing the findings of scientific research and perpetuating misconceptions about, among other things, evolution and climate change, two phenomena that in many cases inform or are the focus of bioarchaeological research (Kaplan 2016). At the time of writing (January 20, 2017, the day of the US Presidential Inauguration), it remains unclear how Trump’s views on science and those of his Cabinet members and advisors will shape the funding of and engagement with scientific research, but there is widespread concern among scholars about the future of science in the USA under the new administration (Tollefson et  al. 2016). Ominously, on the first day of President Trump’s administration, information about climate change was removed from the official White House website. Under President Obama’s administration, the website had provided information about steps that had been taken and that were planned to combat climate change (DiChristopher 2017). With respect to disease research, this is particularly troubling given the possible links between climate change, famine, and the emergence of the Black Death and its devastating consequences. Further, it is alarming that an ­anti-­intellectual computer scientist is being considered for the role of President Trump’s science advisor (Kaplan 2017). The current relatively small proportion of US government spending that is allocated to nondefense scientific research (see, e.g., Hourihan and Parkes 2015) must be vigilantly defended. Tangible threats to this funding include the recent effort to substantially cut funding to the National Science Foundation Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE; the directorate that includes the Biological Anthropology, and Archaeology and Archaeometry programs) via the


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Fiscal Year 2016 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations bill (H.R. 2578). This bill was ostensibly motivated in part by views held by government officials (and presumably at least some of their constituents) that social science research is wasteful and frivolous (e.g., Trager 2015). Further, President Trump reportedly plans to defund the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) (Bump 2017), which has supported archaeological and bioarchaeological research. These past, current, and potential future threats require us to combat misperceptions of our research, not only to reduce the chances of hostility on the part of the general public and their elected officials toward bioarchaeological research but also so that they will be well-informed advocates for its support in the future.

Addressing Misconceptions About Bioarchaeological Research Bioarchaeologists have a responsibility to address misconceptions about our studies and to prevent them to whatever extent is possible. In cases of unanticipated responses to our research results, we can take a post hoc corrective approach: we should stay alert to how our work is disseminated and digested and make efforts to publish clarifications or corrections both formally and informally (e.g., on social media) as needed. For example, I co-authored an article for a public health audience with experts on risk management (DeWitte et  al. 2016) in part to respond to the media framing of the Black Death as beneficial (DeWitte 2014). Our article highlights the economic stagnation, repeated famines (that might have increased heterogeneity in frailty in the population), and rising social inequities that existed in medieval Europe in the period before the Black Death and that might have contributed to its deadly effects. The Black Death was an acute shock that triggered or accelerated changes that might not have been possible otherwise, given the inertia that characterized the social, economic, and political conditions prior to the epidemic. Our emphasis is on the relevance of understanding the circumstances before the Black Death and the changes in its aftermath to the field of resilience management. Though the necessity of and opportunity for economic reorganization following the Black Death yielded changes with apparent positive health outcomes, we should not rely on disasters to promote positive change. Instead, we argue, we can use what we know about the context of the Black Death to identify conditions (such as persistent poverty) that diminish our capabilities to prepare for, absorb, and recover from crisis events. Taking a post hoc approach requires us to be vigilant. We need to actively seek out media reporting of our research and online discussions of our work (e.g., on Facebook and Twitter) and contribute in ways that correct misunderstandings and clarify the context and implications of our findings. One easy way to maintain vigilance is to use services such as Google Alerts or TalkWalker Alerts, free online tools that notify you when selected keywords (such as your name or words relevant to your research) are mentioned online. Join Facebook and Twitter, if you do not

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already belong, so that you can be notified when other users post notices of or otherwise comment on your work and follow discussions on public or private Facebook groups relevant to our field. For example, the BioAnthropology News page on Facebook is a public group whose members (of which there are over 19,000 as of June 11, 2018) and administrators regularly post newly published research or media interpretations thereof, often generating lively discussion among bioanthropological researchers, undergraduate students, and interested non-experts. This and other Facebook groups provide us with opportunities to respond quickly and directly to people who are intrigued (positively or negatively) by our work, including direct dissemination of articles and other writings via private message. Alternatively, we can be more proactive about preventing misconceptions. When we craft our papers and other texts, we should scrutinize them prior to publication with an eye toward the “sound bites” they might generate in the popular media—i.e., what possible attention-grabbing headlines might be inspired by our research? Along these lines, I find it helpful to enlist the aid of friends, family, and colleagues who are non-experts and are not nearly as invested and engrossed in the research as I am to act as a test audience to gauge how a member of the general public might respond to my work. If we can imagine plausible interpretations of our findings that are inconsistent with what we want emphasized, we should strive to make much more explicit what the appropriate or important interpretations and inferences really are. For those employed at institutions with cooperative public relations offices, we should work with affiliated staff to write press releases about our research and thus help preemptively shape the inferences that will be made by journalists. It is also crucial to agree to talk to journalists when they request interviews and to accommodate, as much as is reasonable, their typically narrow windows of opportunity to respond to inquiries. Requests for interviews may present an additional burden added to our numerous existing service commitments, particularly when, as if often the case in my experience, journalists prefer to conduct interviews over the phone or in person rather than via e-mail, thus limiting the flexibility of responding to such requests. However, planning in advance of the actual publication can make it easier to respond to media inquiries. This planning could include scheduling time for talking to journalists and thinking about how to respond to questions they are likely to ask. In my experience, there is a great deal of overlap in the questions that different journalists ask. When I interact with journalists with respect to my Black Death research, I am always asked variations on some or all of the following questions: “What data do you collect from human skeletons? Were any of your findings surprising or unexpected? Why is this work important? How might this research help people today? Were some people immune to the Black Death? Is it possible that an epidemic as devastating as the Black Death could occur again in the future? How should we prepare for epidemic diseases now?” Scholars might find it useful to script responses to commonly asked or anticipated questions to have at hand in order to efficiently respond to interview requests by journalists. These tactics are certainly worth the effort if they result in media portrayals of our work that are consistent with our perspectives, motivations, and interpretations.


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Similarly, we can shape the message we want disseminated by writing about our research, in a way that is accessible to the general public, on our personal or professional websites. Alternatively, we should reach out to science bloggers and encourage them to write posts or host guest posts that we write about our research. There are several widely read bioarchaeological blogs that can provide ideal platforms for our research, including one ( written by Kristina Killgrove (who also contributes bioarchaeological news items to and; see Chap. 14). Bioarchaeologists can also prevent and correct misconceptions about our work by taking advantage of opportunities to engage with the general public in relatively informal ways. This can make more people aware of our research and the value of bioarchaeology so that they might be more likely to consult us (either directly or by reading our publications) in the future if they have questions about health and disease in the past. One mechanism for doing this is contributing to the production of a TED-Ed video lesson ( These short (3–4 min) animated video lessons are designed to be accessible to high school and undergraduate students, as well as teachers and anyone else interested in the featured topics. The videos are accompanied by relevant questions to test understanding and additional resources such as links to relevant websites, news articles, and other TED-Ed videos with related content for those who want to learn more. Scholars can propose their own ideas for these lessons or nominate other scholars to be asked to participate in their production. My own TED-Ed lesson ( on the effects of the Black Death and the ancient DNA analyses of the responsible pathogen has been viewed over 550,000 times as of June 11, 2018. Though the short TED-Ed video is certainly not sufficient to fully educate people about Black Death bioarchaeology and paleomicrobiology, it has exposed many people to my work for the first time, leading some to read my publications. To my knowledge, the video has been shown in undergraduate anthropology and history courses at several institutions. This has resulted in a far larger number of people with a wide variety of educational backgrounds and academic interests who are now familiar with my Black Death research than would be possible solely through the dissemination of my peer-reviewed publications. Wide exposure of my research in this way also has the potential to more generally forge an association in peoples’ minds between bioarchaeology and disease research. I hope this contributes to more people in the general public viewing bioarchaeologists appropriately as the experts that we are on these matters and affording our research the consideration and weight that it deserves. On a smaller scale, we can reach the general public by giving talks designed for non-specialist audiences in continuing education courses, local museums, and other venues outside the academy. It has been a humbling experience to give such talks and realize in the process how many people have never heard of bioarchaeology, but it has also been encouraging to see how enthusiastic they are about it once they do learn about the field. I hope that the excitement I have seen in audiences compels them to read more about bioarchaeological research and to be supportive of funding of our work via federal and private foundation grants. Furthermore, not only do

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these types of talks enhance our ability to reach a diverse audience and inform them about what we do, but they also benefit us as scholars. These interactions with the general public drive us to think carefully about how to make our research relevant and interesting to non-experts. Success in engaging with the general public and convincing people of the value of bioarchaeological research in turn improves our ability to write compelling grant applications that are reviewed by scholars outside our own fields or by funding agencies, such as the National Science Foundation, that prioritize clear descriptions of the broader implications, including potential societal benefits, of our work.

Conclusion Bioarchaeologists are engaged in research that is relevant far beyond our field and is often of great interest to other scholars and the general public. This includes research on disease; interpersonal violence, warfare, and structural violence (Chaps.  3 and 11); climate change (Chap. 6); colonial contact (Chap. 4); diet (Chap. 7); migration (Chap. 8); identity formation and family dynamics (Chap. 9); and socioeconomic health disparities. In addition to improving our understanding of both variation and shared human experiences throughout time, bioarchaeological research can benefit living people. Our work has the potential to interest an even larger audience than that which currently exists and to affect human behavior and policy decisions in positive ways if we make greater efforts to engage with the general public and ensure that our findings and the inferences thereof, which are relevant to contemporary issues, are represented accurately. Unfortunately, bioarchaeological research is sometimes distorted in the popular media, thereby potentially warping public perceptions not only of our findings but also of the value of our field of inquiry in general. For example, research results on the medieval Black Death have been presented in the popular media as evidence that the epidemic was ultimately good for the affected populations. This distracts from the much more important and useful insight that extremely high Black Death mortality and differences in health and demography between the pre- and post-Black Death populations might have been driven by dramatic social inequities in access to resources. Such distraction is unfortunate, given that this finding might help m ­ otivate efforts to reduce social inequities in contemporary populations as part of a broader effort to reduce risks of mortality from diseases now and in the future. Similarly, reporting of ancient DNA analyses of historical plague outbreaks has created the false impression that the participating researchers have “revived” the pathogen that caused past epidemics. This misconception might engender public mistrust of researchers who specialize in ancient biomolecule analysis and provoke unjustified fears that the work we do poses a risk to public health. In some cases, it might be possible to prevent future misconceptions about bioarchaeological research if we are carefully attuned to the inferences that can plausibly be made from our findings and craft our publications, press releases, and


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responses to journalists in ways that prevent off-target or blatantly wrong interpretations. We are also fortunate to have at our disposal numerous means of widely disseminating our research, and correcting misconceptions thereof, beyond conventional scholarly publications, which may not reach all potentially interested readers and which are not always easily accessible to or affordable for those outside of the academy. These nonconventional platforms include social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and YouTube, all of which are free to use and that allow us to reach people of various educational backgrounds and interests throughout the world. However, we need to harness those means more effectively so that our messages (as opposed to the messages produced by others based on our findings) are broadcast widely and accurately and thus have maximum impact with respect to furthering knowledge and benefiting the public. Acknowledgments  I am grateful to Drs. Jane Buikstra and Debra Martin for organizing and inviting me to participate in the Bioarchaeologists Speak Out executive sessions at the American Anthropological Association in 2016, which provided me with the opportunity to present a preliminary version of this chapter. I also thank Anna Tremblay, Brittany Walter, and Samantha Yaussy for their help with data collection for the research described in this chapter and Drs. Jane Buikstra and Eric Jones for their helpful comments on this chapter and reminders, more generally, of the broader implications of my work. Funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF BCS-­ 1261682 and BCS-0406252), the Wenner-Gren Foundation (grants #8247 and #7142), the University of South Carolina Office of the Provost’s Internal Grant Programs, and an American Association of Physical Anthropologists Professional Development Grant supported the data collection and analyses that produced the findings on demographic and health trends before, during, and after the medieval Black Death summarized in this chapter.

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Chapter 6

Changing the Climate: Bioarchaeology Responds to Deterministic Thinking About Human-Environmental Interactions in the Past Gwen Robbins Schug, Emily K. Parnell, and Ryan P. Harrod

Introduction There is no doubt that we live in a warming world and that climate change is a very significant and important challenge facing human societies today. On Thursday, May 9, 2013, we passed 400 ppm of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere, a level that has not been reached since the Miocene (a geological epoch from 23 to 5 million years ago, when the first apes evolved). Climate scientists predict 2–3 °C of warming above the mean annual surface temperatures we have enjoyed throughout most of the nineteenth century; average global temperatures are expected to increase from 15 °C (59 °F) to 17 °C (62.6 °F) by 2100; a larger increase is to be expected if we continue to emit fossil fuels into the atmosphere unabated. Unfortunately, warmer mean annual temperature is only one of the numerous impacts we will experience from global warming, and, as these changes begin to accumulate, the global public is becoming increasingly aware of climate change. Global warming feels alarming in particular because there is a lot of uncertainty about what warmer temperatures will mean for human life on Earth and there is also growing concern surrounding the tacit agreement that we are not rapidly or significantly going to change our behavior. As public concern mounts about climate change, popular presses capitalize on “scientific” narratives about how climate drives the collapse of past societies (e.g., Diamond 2005). A scholarly literature has also developed over the past few decades, specifically with a goal of informing public policy. The human security field, for instance, is focused on understanding and predicting how humans will respond to

G. Robbins Schug (*) · E. K. Parnell Department of Anthropology, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC, USA e-mail: [email protected] R. P. Harrod Department of Anthropology, University of Alaska Anchorage, Anchorage, AK, USA © Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019 J. E. Buikstra (ed.), Bioarchaeologists Speak Out, Bioarchaeology and Social Theory,



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the changing climate. A review of the literature in this field of inquiry is marked by some interesting differences from other kinds of intellectual work and scholarship on human societies, not the least of which is (1) a focus on adaptationist and deterministic thinking, (2) a belief that civilization quells humanity’s naturally violent tendencies, and (3) the notion that climate change and environmental migration will invariably result in competition, increasing chaos, and possibly collapse (see, e.g., Barnett and Adger 2007; Gleick 2014, 2016; Hsiang et al. 2013; Raleigh and Urdal 2007; Scheffran et al. 2012). This is important because governmental and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) worldwide rely on this literature as a basis for policy and planning; thus, essentialism and determinist approaches have real and disturbing implications. It is our opinion that anthropological perspectives on the topic of human-­ environmental relations are particularly valuable, as they give voice to human biocultural variation and these voices should be more present in the policy and planning discourse about climate change. Human security literature is deeply concerned with the role of the state in moderating vulnerability and has a primary interest in assisting policy planners by making predictions about human behavior and “vulnerability” in the face of challenges like global warming. Information about the consequences of climate change for human communities in the past, the role of culture and history, and potential challenges to health, safety, and mortality should therefore be considered to be of tremendous value. Bioarchaeology—the contextualized study of archaeological human remains—has long examined the role of history, society, and culture in shaping human biocultural adaptations in cases of past environmental change and more specifically in climate change conditions (e.g., Gregoricka 2016; Harrod and Martin 2013; Robbins Schug 2011; Robbins Schug and Blevins 2016; Robbins Schug and Goldman 2014; Robbins Schug et al. 2012, 2013). Therefore, bioarchaeological evidence and inferences about past climate should be one of the primary sources for making evidence-based predictions about the future, mitigating some of the uncertainty about the forces that shape the range of possible human responses worldwide and the differential long-term consequences of short-term strategies. In this chapter, we begin with an examination of the claims made by the US government—the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Defense (DoD)—about global warming and its potential impacts. We demonstrate the interweaving of determinist thinking and pseudo-evolutionary narratives, which ultimately pose a threat to reasonable and effective global relations. We then turn our attention to the human security literature, which was intended to provide a scientific foundation for understanding human vulnerability in the face of climate change as well as the role of the State in meeting those challenges. We describe the history of this field with the goal of demonstrating the development of these narratives about violence and collapse. Finally we describe bioarchaeological research that demonstrates the diversity of human-environmental relations, climate, and cultural changes in the past and could represent an alternative framework for making predictions about global warming.

6  Changing the Climate: Bioarchaeology Responds to Deterministic Thinking About…


 limate Change as “a Significant Threat to the Health C of the American People” For decades, Americans have avoided an effective response to climate change. Many politicians have redirected attention to a straw-man debate about whether climate change is real and if humans played a role. Behind the mirage of controversy though, governmental agencies responsible for ensuring the management of natural resources and our national security have accepted that global warming represents “a significant threat to the health of the American people” (USGCRP 2016). In documents composed by pre-2017 EPA, global warming is specifically framed as an evolutionary challenge. “Human societies have adapted to the relatively stable climate we have enjoyed since the last Ice Age, which ended several 1000 years ago. A warming climate will bring changes that can affect our water supplies, agriculture, power and transportation systems, the natural environment, and even our own health and safety” (EPA 2016a). Specifically, the pre-2017 EPA has publicly expressed concerns that global warming is melting glaciers, causing sea level rise, and changing patterns and distribution of rainfall, evaporation rates, fresh water supplies, and water quality (EPA 2016b). They publicly predicted that global warming will fundamentally alter ecosystems and transform habitats, food webs, life cycles of plants and animals, home ranges, and migration patterns, that it will affect the evolution and spread of pathogens and parasites, and that climate change is a primary driver of extinction (EPA 2016c). Food and water security are almost certainly at stake in the face of global climate change, population growth, and growing global inequality. Domesticated plants and animals thrive in narrow temperature ranges, with rather specific nutrient requirements that must be met despite changes that often give advantage to unwanted species of weeds and pests. Food resource scarcity will result from declines in agriculture—plant growth may be stimulated by increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere, but failure to adapt to changing irrigation and fertilization regimes, growing seasons, and ecozones will likely result in declines in production (EPA 2016c). In the context of increasing demand for fresh water, annual surface moisture trends in 2016 had already supported the suggestion that drought is a significant looming problem in the Midwest and the southern half of the United States (EPA 2016d). In the northern parts of the country, the concern was that flooding and runoff that would overwhelm existing infrastructure and lead to water pollution problems. These governmental and nongovernmental organizations and working groups are focused on predicting the impacts of global climate change for human populations for good reason. Perhaps a strongly negative tone is warranted, but the adaptationist framework should perhaps be equally alarming, particularly because it is often framed in terms of natural selection that humans are in a Malthusian competition for finite resources, and thus American national security interests and resource needs are de facto pitted against “others” around the world. In the EPA’s public comments, this is expressed softly: “In developing countries, adaptation options like changes in crop management or ranching practices, or improvements to irrigation are more


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limited than in the United States and other industrialized nations. … Impacts to the global food supply concern the United States because food shortages can cause humanitarian crises and national security concerns” (EPA 2016d). But it is important to note that the DoD is also making plans for a warmer world, and in that case, pseudo-Darwinian paradigms might be more dangerous. The DoD, in their public documents pertaining to global warming, has stated a preoccupation with maintaining American supremacy, unfettered acquisition of global resources, and even the maintenance of capitalist hierarchies. For example, in July of 2015, the DoD issued a report to the United States’ Congress entitled National Security Implications of Climate-Related Risks and a Changing Climate (DoD 2015). Congress had tasked the DoD with identifying the most serious and most likely climate-related risks for military operations; developing mitigation plans for humanitarian aid, global security, capacity building in partner states, and sharing best practices; and describing their resource needs to conduct these operations. The report defined global climate change as “an urgent and growing threat to our national security, contributing to increased natural disasters, refugee flows, and conflicts over basic resources such as food and water” (DoD 2015, p. 3). The DoD claimed in this document that the impacts of global warming were already being experienced and “the scope, scale, and intensity of these impacts are projected to increase over time” (DoD 2015, p. 3). The document as a whole belies a philosophical orientation that the United States needs to “project power and win decisively” as the increasing risk of instability and conflict overseas creates “challenges to our national interests.” Based on published reports by national security agencies, the pre-2017 leadership at the DoD and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been in complete agreement with the United Nations (UN) and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that Earth’s mean annual temperature has risen and will continue to rise and global warming will lead to the following risks: “large and potentially dangerous” changes in the weather, intensity of heat waves, patterns of rainfall, frequency and severity of storms, flooding, and drought (EPA 2016a). In this chapter, we too are in complete agreement that climate change (global warming) is an important challenge for life on Earth. Our interest in this chapter is to challenge the adaptationist narrative—where environmental immigration and increased competition for resources will lead to inevitable violent clashes—that underlies these predictions and plans by the US government. Our goal is to trace the development of that narrative and to provide an alternative, anthropological framework for understanding potential human responses to climate change as a product of historical, social, and cultural factors.

 uman Security Literature: A Basis for Planning H and Public Policy In the twentieth century, Western societies were impacted by major sociopolitical changes, like the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the USSR (Tadjbakhsh and Chenoy 2007, p.  1). It is within this context that a new field of inquiry was

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established. The human security literature was to address policy concerns about the welfare of ordinary people (Paris 2001) and to conduct research on the “insufficiency of a state-based approach” to individual and human “well-being” (Dabelko 2010, p. ix). Well-being was defined variously as freedom from fear, freedom from want, or freedom from any threats to safety. “Simply put, Human Security debunks the question of ‘security’ from its traditional conception of the safety of states from military threats to concentrate on the safety of people and communities” (Tadjbakhsh and Chenoy 2007, p. 9). Initially, scholars in the human security field had interests spanning topics like state violence, environmental degradation, population displacement, and globalization (Stoett 1999; UNDP 1994). Eventually the focus of research attention narrowed to “vulnerability,” state power, and natural resources, and eventually these three areas coalesced into a concern with global climate change as a persistent new research direction around the turn of the twenty-first century (Hampson and Hay 2002; Khong 2001; King and Murray 2002; Nef 1999; Newman and Richmond 2001; Stoett 1999; Suhrke 1999; Thomas and Wilkin 1999). A coherent model for research in this field of inquiry emerged around 2003 (Alkire 2003; Khagram et al. 2003; Oels 2012; Owen 2004). In a sense, climate change offered a new organizational framework for a field that was intensely struggling to redefine itself and to understand a world that seemed “random, turbulent, and chaotic” after the end of the Cold War (Nef 1999, p. 3). Disturbingly, scholars in this field began to focus on an idea that climate change would inevitably catalyze a clash of cultures that would come to dominate global politics in the near future: “The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle-­ lines of the future” (Huntington 1993). Other scholars, particularly Nef, foresaw the dangers of a reemergence of the ethnocentric and deterministic paradigms of the past. He opined that this kind of thinking “shows a remarkable misunderstanding of both history and culture and cannot reflect the complex, nuanced, and dynamic nature of our age of extremes while perpetuating the cult of war and Western superiority” (Nef 1999, p. 4). How prescient this complaint would become in a field that shortly thereafter looked to explain the crises brought forth by the 2000 election— George W. Bush’s wars, the rise of ISIL, and the crash of the global economy in 2008—and now the apparently tyrannical power relations developing early in 2017. Unfortunately, as the field of human security embraced climate change as a promising new direction of research, determinist thinking began to dominate the formulation of new questions about human vulnerability and “well-being.” The following quote encapsulates the vision that was articulated early on in this field: Throughout most of human history, the constraints imposed by local environmental conditions and their natural variability were powerful determinants of the security of individuals and societies: animals, droughts, floods, frosts, pathogens, storms, and other environmental perturbations were significant causes of mortality, morbidity, and social disruption. In today’s modern societies, technology, trade, industrialization, the use of fossil fuels, occupational specialization, and higher levels of social organization have all weakened the constraints that local environments place on Human Security. … Across the world, the prospects for Human Security are deeply affected by local and global processes of environmental change… Our general argument is that global environmental change poses new and in some cases unprecedented threats to Human Security. …The point that is underscored throughout


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this volume is that global environmental change is inherently a question about the capacity to respond to new challenges and to reconcile the growing disparities that undermine Human Security. (Nef 1999, p. 4)

Another book, entitled Global Environmental Change and Human Security, which also intended to synthesize this emerging field of inquiry, also demonstrates a growing preoccupation with violent conflict as a result of changing environmental circumstances around the world (Matthew et al. 2010). What emerges from reading this literature is that (1) the field of inquiry known as human security is a topic that is deeply anthropological, (2) anthropological and archaeological perspectives are not a prominent feature in human security discourse, and (3) the absence of anthropology left a vacuum that would predominantly be filled by determinist perspectives. Anthropologists—and our literature—remain largely ignored by the human security field despite participation by anthropologists at a 2004 symposium that outlined a new paradigm for the field of human security. Anthropologists Winslow and Eriksen (2004) called for a critical approach at this symposium, arguing for a recognition of human variation that is completely elided by the very definition of human security, as it was otherwise proposed. The anthropologists criticized the proposed paradigm, and specifically, they criticized the proposed definition of human security, saying it: …is fuzzy and needs to be problematized, but in fact its appeal lies in its very vagueness. As anthropologists, we do not limit ourselves to the traditional definition of Human Security as freedom from fear and freedom from want. Rather, we examine how security is defined in different social and cultural contexts, through symbolic and social processes, and how security and insecurity are dealt with through social institutions. (Floyd 2007, pp. 39–40)

However, this call for complexity and problematizing was deemed somehow too messy and ultimately unattractive to the mission of developing a new paradigm for research. Rather than take an anthropological turn, many scholars interested in human security instead took a policy-oriented approach or even more heavily began to draw from research on crises and natural disasters (Burton et  al. 1993). Vulnerability had always been an organizing principle in this field, and now, the contours of vulnerability documented in a handful of modern, Western societies would be conceptualized as a human universal (Adger 1999). To make things worse, the human security field in some ways became almost anti-anthropological as the Copenhagen School of Securitization gained prominence. The Copenhagen School is highly focused on the state’s role in providing security or the failed state’s failure to do so. Nordås and Gleditsch, for example, explicitly claimed, “Human induced climate change is one of the most drastic neo-­ Malthusian scenarios” (Nordås and Gleditsch 2007, p.  627). To summarize their perspective, the modern era represents “the first time in human history” that humans have had a profound influence on the environment and, as a brand new phenomenon, there are “profound gaps” in our knowledge of how humans will respond to climate change, which the human security field is poised to fill as there “are no peer-­reviewed studies” relating climate change and conflict (Nordås and Gleditsch 2007, p. 630).

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The next section reviews some of the ideas that have emerged from the human security literature about how human societies operate in the face of climate change and crisis. We find remarkable misconceptions of evolutionary biology and misunderstandings of the complex relationships between human biology, culture, and history. The literature is rife with implications of a false assumption that “human nature” is inherently violent, combined with a neo-Malthusian and pseudo-­ Darwinian misconception that climate change will bring increased competition for resources, which will inevitably result in increasing rates of violent behavior and eventually the collapse of the state system.

The Problem with Determinist Thinking The consensus about climate change that has thus far emerged in the human security literature is that resource scarcity, social inequality, and environmental migration will result in increased conflict and interpersonal violence (Alvarez 2016; Carleton et al. 2016; Cramer 2002; de Soysa et al. 1999; Gilgan 2001; Gough 2002; Hsiang et al. 2013; Mochizuki 2004; Moran and Pitcher 2004; Ohlsson 1999, 2000). Barnett and Adger (2007) recently synthesized this paradigm thusly: …climate change increasingly undermines Human Security in the present day, and will increasingly do so in the future, by reducing access to and the quality of natural resources that are important to sustain livelihoods. We argue that in certain circumstances these direct and indirect impacts of climate change on Human Security may in turn increase the risk of violent conflict. (Barnett and Adger 2007, p. 639)

They then lay out the mechanism by which violence becomes a likely outcome: There are two broad ways in which conflict might be stimulated by climate change. First, conflict could come about through changes in the political economy of energy resources due to mitigative action to reduce emissions from fossil fuels (Rifkin 2002). The second issue is the prospect of conflict stimulated by changes in social systems driven by actual or perceived climate impacts. (Barnett and Adger 2007, p. 640)

Despite the strongly anthropological nature of the topic, this literature does not engage with anthropology, and it is often also ahistorical. For example, this passage about shifting patterns of El Niño in the nineteenth century (Davis 2001) incredibly references anthropological topics only as they are elucidated in a popular book written by Jared Diamond: Davis’s arguments about the ways climatic variations have combined with stressed socio-­ ecological systems to result in dramatic social change is reinforced by Diamond (2005), who examines many cases of catastrophic social change and finds environmental change was a common factor in all of them, and climate change in particular was a cause of many. (Barnett and Adger 2007, p. 641)

The lack of anthropology explains that the preeminence of pseudo-Darwinian notions of an essentially violent human nature, neo-Malthusian emphasis on competition for resources, and a Jared Diamond-like imagining of societal collapse are


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clearly implied by this passage and by much of this literature (Barnett 2006; Barnett and Adger 2007; Ehrlich and Ehrlich 2013; Hsiang et al. 2013). The absence of history in this literature is justified by the notion that “the changes now underway in the Earth’s climate system have no precedent in the history of human civilization (IPCC 2007; Stern 2007)” (Barnett and Adger 2007, p. 640). A bit of lip service is paid to archaeology when the authors state that “climatic variations have triggered large-­ scale social disruptions in the past.” However, citations are notably absent. Even worse, in some cases, this literature is explicitly racist, examining “Africa” as a homogenous entity, using worn tropes about chaos and failed statehood to suggest that a lack of organization among dark-skinned people is somehow more dangerous than the rising right-wing nationalism and authoritarian tendencies of nuclear-armed Western states, which have increasingly militarized police forces and a degenerate press (Brown et al. 2007). Fear of anarchy and wild people extends to analysis of rural communities in Asia as well. A recent paper about subsistence farmers in rural areas of East Timor promoted the notion that shifting patterns of rainfall, variability, unpredictability in optimal growth parameters for different crops, and a lack of penetrance for state systems will lead to food shortages and famine (e.g., Barnett et al. 2007). There is no discussion of colonialism, assimilation programs, land grabbing, geographical and social marginalization, pollution, genetically modified seeds, et cetera. Reading this literature, one might think that those historical processes did not shape the vulnerability of human populations at all; one might imagine that competition for resources always leads to social inequality because it is a natural part of being human. To be fair, some researchers have pushed back against such analyses and have suggested the link between climate change and conflict is more complicated (Schiermeier 2010; Schleussner et al. 2016). The human security literature occasionally acknowledges the impacts of social inequality on human vulnerability and security. For example, Bartlett (2008) suggested that climate change would disadvantage low-income urban youth, especially in regard to health, learning, psychosocial well-being, and family dynamics. She predicted nutritional deficiency, poor sanitation, infectious disease, respiratory illness, heat stress, and quality of life would all have the most profound impacts in the most vulnerable communities— among children, people with low incomes, and others already affected by structural inequality. While some of the literature acknowledges structural inequality, there is still an ahistorical elision of the systems of power underlying that inequality. The focus remains on discussing how the state should meet basic needs or risk civilizational collapse. There is no discussion of who is served by the naturalizing of everyday violence, hegemony, or the reproduction of inequality. Inequality is described in organic terms, as a correlate to or a variable of interest for modeling impacts of climate change. The state is regarded as responsible for human well-being (Gough 2002; Keen 2000); weak states do not meet this obligation and that is a prologue to societal collapse. The state is cast as the driver of injustice but also the most reasonable solution. The concept of the failed state is invoked as a primary cause of suffering. The literature minimizes possibilities for alternative forms of organization,

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creative solutions to structural change, or perhaps even the possibility that failed statehood could be a solution to climate change. Determinism is attractive to conservative thinkers because it supports the maintenance of the status quo—social inequality, structural and everyday violence, racism, sex and gender disparities, and narratives about humans that belie the desire for power and control. It is equally attractive to those who are interested in making predictions about human behavior to mitigate the impacts of climate change because its simplistic formula is readily applied. Accordingly, alongside the absence of history and anthropology, another theme is the absence of human agency as a force for sociocultural change. When structural inequality is mentioned, there is a notion that individual actors are passive recipients of state power and control. This literature ignores sociological and anthropological theory completely to make actors into objects; for example, there is no sense of awareness of basic theoretical frameworks in the social sciences and humanities, like “theory of society,” wherein habitus is created through an interaction between individuals and social structures and noneconomic, symbolic forms of social control which play an important role in power relations (Bourdieu 1986). In fact, in some cases, it appears that scholars in human security believe they have invented critical social theory and as the originators of these ideas, no citations to anthropology or archaeology are required: While the focus of Human Security is in the individual, the processes that undermine or strengthen Human Security are often external to the locality of communities where individuals reside. In terms of environmental change, for example, upstream users of water, distant atmospheric polluters, multinational logging and mining companies, regional-scale climatic processes and a host of other distant actors and larger scale processes influence the security of individuals’ entitlements to natural resources and services. Similarly in terms of the social determinants of vulnerability, warfare, corruption, trade dependency, macroeconomic policies, and a host of other larger scale processes associated with ‘globalisation’ shape the social and economic entitlements that are necessary to reduce an individual’s vulnerability (or increase their ability to adapt) to environmental changes. Adger and Kelly (1999) refer to these larger scale processes as comprising the ‘architecture of entitlements’. Furthermore, the determinants of Human Security are as temporally as they are spatially complex: past processes such as colonization and war shape present insecurities, and ongoing processes such as climate change and trade liberalization shape future insecurities. (Barnett and Adger 2007, p. 642)

Finally, this literature is often deeply ethnocentric, assuming that what is typical in “Western culture” is globally universal through time. This is untrue in regard to the histories of climate change, the responses of human societies to change, the meaning of environmental changes today, and the propensity within diverse cultural systems for humans to have different responses that succeed.

Anthropology as an Antidote to Determinist Thinking In a sense, determinism, in its different forms, genetic, ecological, biological, and psychological, is an idea that everything (including human agency or history) can ultimately be explained by an extrinsic force—laws of nature, evolution, and


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“human nature”—or some previously existing cause that has the potential to be understood (de LaPlace 1820) and even used to make predictions. Determinism ultimately relies on a rational and thus potentially moral universe, and it undervalues complexity, agency, chaos, and stochasticity. Scientists cannot address problems by invoking an essential and unchanging human nature or an overarching trajectory of human responses to climate change (e.g., resource stress always leads to interpersonal violence). Rather, things that change should “force themselves on our attention far more than things that remain the same” (Gadamer 1960, p. xxii). As anthropologists, our comparative, cross-cultural approach to long-term processes allows a focus on variation in climate, an acknowledgment that human society and culture are ever-changing, and an abiding focus on diversity in human responses to the environment, culture change, and resiliency (Barnes et al. 2013; Dove 2014; Gaillard 2007; Redman 2005). Anthropology offers the antidote to determinist thinking through a focus on diversity and variation. Physical changes to the environment, the perception of those changes, and the meaning of climate change will vary cross-culturally (Barnes et al. 2013; Roncoli et al. 2009). Perceptions are shaped by historical and sociocultural experiences; art and folklore; traditions, mores, and cultural values; political relations; and individual actors, the strength of their beliefs, desires for conformance or propensities for innovation, or risky behavior. There is a historical trajectory that informs our knowledge about the climate and environmental change. This knowledge is communicated and circulates in a large variety of forms. History and culture shape how we perceive opportunities and constraints posed by climate change and the tendency to accept some responses but not others. Although the human security literature is focused on a concept of “vulnerability,” at the root of this construct are the sociocultural dynamics that determine risk among individuals, within communities, and in larger social forms (including states). Anthropology has documented diverse human responses to environmental change, particularly over the long arc of the human past (e.g., Dove 2014; Faulseit 2015; Kaniewski et  al. 2013; Kennett et  al. 2012; McAnany and Yoffee 2010; McIntosh et al. 2000; Chap. 4). Archaeology is a subfield of anthropology that provides a historical, deep-time perspective on what it means to experience a changing environment. Archaeologists study how humans perceive and understand climatic and environmental shifts, how history and society unevenly constrain choices for coping with climate change, the types of responses that humans have had to climate changes in the past, and the long-term health and biocultural outcomes of different short-term strategies. Archaeologists have a unique view of the longue durée, the unfolding of catastrophic events (rapid climate change, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, etc.). Archaeologists also have particular scientific mores, recognizing the value of working holistically and interdisciplinarily; we are trained to consider multiple lines of evidence and how they converge (or not) to address our hypotheses; and, importantly, variation is at the core of our perspective on the world. Archaeologists too began with adaptationist perspectives on humans and environments in the past. Processual archaeology developed in the latter half of the twentieth century from a dissatisfaction with neo-Darwinian approaches to human

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populations (Binford 1962; Flannery 1968; Hardesty 1975; Smith and Winterhalder 1992; Winterhalder and Smith 1981). Evolutionary anthropologists constructed “human habitats” from “the environment” and were focused on “biocultural adaptations” as solutions to evolutionary challenges. Evolutionary anthropologists often explained evidence for changes in material culture as adaptions to climate change, ignoring the fact that climate is one extrinsic force but it operates within a particular set of social, historical, and cultural circumstances. Determinist modes of thinking in archaeology were eventually criticized for reducing complexity, downplaying the role of history, social relations, power, and human agency as forces for culture change in the service of easily digestible, unilineal, and unicausal explanations for the past (Hodder 1986; Leone 1984; Rappaport 1977; Renfrew and Bahn 1991). For decades, post-processual archaeology has shifted the focus away from determinist and adaptationist representations toward grappling with complexity (Brumfiel 1995; Crumley 1979, 1995, 2005; Gero 1985; Hodder 1982, 1992; Leone et  al. 1987; Meskell 1996; Shanks and Tilley 1987). Human-environmental interactions are still an important focus for research but with the recognition that “nature” is not essentially different from—nor even necessarily divided from—“culture.” There are established correlations between environmental changes and cultural or social changes in the past, but the observational nature of the discipline makes it difficult to directly link these datasets (Barnes, et  al. 2013; Faulseit 2015; McAnany and Yoffee 2010; McIntosh et al. 2000). Climate change has undoubtedly been an important factor in human history; it can even represent a form of “stress.” History, sociocultural diversity, and human experience, however, will more deeply shape our perception of, interactions and relations with, and responses to “the environment” and environmental change. “Vulnerability”—defined above as freedom from fear and freedom from want—is social and cultural. This is not an environmentally determined phenomenon in any clear or straightforward manner. “Climate change is accompanied everywhere by other kinds of change in society. Although climate is sometimes the dominant factor driving change, just as often it is outweighed by other factors” (Barnes et al. 2013). Biocultural phenomena like health, subsistence and dietary changes, crop failure, migration, political and economic forces, or demographic dynamics change through time (Chap. 5). Correlation is not causation. There is no proof that climate is the principle driver of biocultural processes, today or in the past (Hulme 2011). The key to avoiding determinism is to focus on local processes and developing a rich theoretical framework to explain the observable phenomena. Theory—the set of principles, or system of ideas that we use to explain our world—allows us to consider the nature of being and knowing at a fundamental level. Theory can also be practical, in some cases, serving to justify particular beliefs and actions. As a basic foundation for research, our theories must be developed independent of the subject of our inquiry; they must be broadly logical, coherent, systematic, and applicable. How our research is designed, the questions we ask, the methods we use to address our questions, and the interpretations at which we arrive are all embedded (explicitly or implicitly) in our theoretical underpinnings, and thus these should be carefully understood. The following section represents an example of how bioarchaeologists,


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as anthropologists, grapple with past climate change and its proximate and ultimate role in shaping the human past. Given a strongly anthropological perspective, bioarchaeological research should also contribute to popular and cross-disciplinary discourse about climate change, particularly given our inherently informative data source, the physical remains of past people.

 n Anthropological Bioarchaeology of Climate Change: A An Example from South Asian Prehistory Many bioarchaeologists have conducted research on the implications of climate change for human society in the past, particularly as it relates to interpersonal violence, dietary change, or migration (e.g., Baker and Tsuda 2015; Gregoricka 2016; Gregoricka and Sheridan 2017; Harrod and Martin 2013; Martin and Harrod 2016; Chap. 4; Stojanowski and Knudson 2011, 2014). Here we focus on the findings of 5 years research on climate change and “collapse” in the Indus civilization, a large, complex society that existed in South Asia during the second and third millennia BCE. Jared Diamond, in his book Collapse (Diamond 2005), highlighted the Indus case as an example of how societies “choose to fail.” Importantly, research on this civilization has been revitalized recently, including large, funded archaeological projects to collect data on monsoon rainfall variability and hydrological change in the Indus Valley (Giosan et  al. 2012; Petrie et  al. 2017) and bioarchaeological research on the skeletal collections from a large Indus city, Harappa (Lovell 2014a, b, 2016; Robbins Schug 2016, 2017; Robbins Schug et  al. 2012, 2013; Robbins Schug and Blevins 2016). In this chapter, we will summarize the paleoclimate and bioarchaeological research with the goal of addressing misconceptions about the Indus civilization in the popular literature and specific predictions from the human security literature, which suggest that resource scarcity and immigration in the face of climate change lead to increased vulnerability among human communities. The first urbanization phase in South Asia, known as the Indus civilization (3300–1900 BCE), is characterized by socioeconomic, cultural, and political complexity. In the context of a generally semiarid climate that had been established in the latter half of the Holocene in Northwest India and Pakistan, urban centers grew up along river valleys spanning as much as a million square kilometers of territory during the mature phase (2600–1900 BCE). These cities—Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro, Dholavira, Rakhigarhi, and Ganweriwala—were supported by craft specialists participating in medium- and long-distance trade networks (Wright 2010) and by farmers in the hinterlands who had, over four millennia, developed locally viable agricultural and husbandry regimes well suited to the vagaries of a winter and summer monsoons system (Petrie et  al. 2017). The most archaeologically dramatic among the sociocultural changes that occurred in the mature period of the Indus civilization is the rapid rise of these cities, some of which were founded as new settlements at the beginning of this period and grew to tens of thousands of people in less than two centuries (Shinde 2016).

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The succeeding Late Harappan or disintegration period has often been characterized as a prehistoric “collapse” by Diamond; it is described as follows: By collapse, I mean a drastic decrease in human population size and/or political/economic/ social complexity, over a considerable area, for an extended time. The phenomenon of collapses is thus an extreme form of several milder types of decline, and it becomes arbitrary to decide how drastic the decline of a society must be before it qualifies to be labeled as a collapse. Some of those milder types of decline include the normal minor rises and falls of fortune, and minor political/economic/social restructurings, of any individual society; one society’s conquest by a close neighbor, or its decline linked to the neighbor’s rise, without change in the total population size or complexity of the whole region; and the replacement or overthrow of one governing elite by another. By those standards, most people would consider the following past societies to have been famous victims of full-fledged collapses rather than of just minor declines: the Anasazi and Cahokia within the boundaries of the modern U.S., the Maya cities in Central America, Moche and Tiwanaku societies in South America, Mycenean Greece and Minoan Crete in Europe, Great Zimbabwe in Africa, Angkor Wat and the Harappan Indus Valley cities in Asia, and Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean. (Diamond 2005, p. iii)

Diamond laid out a five-point framework for “collapse”: human-caused environmental degradation, climate change, hostile neighbors or decreased support from friendly neighbors, and ineffective responses to challenges (Diamond 2005). In his book, he did not solely attribute the decline of the Indus civilization to climate change, but rather in the footnotes for Chap. 9, he cited environmental changes combined with the completely discredited idea that there had been an Aryan invasion in the first half of the second millennium BCE. There is absolutely no archaeological or skeletal evidence of such a large-scale conflagration that could end a civilization stretching over a million square kilometers (Dales 1964; Danino 2016; Leach 1990; Shaffer 1984). This massacre is a myth, but the fact remains that after 1900 BCE we do see large urban centers like Mohenjo-Daro, Harappa, and others basically depopulated (Possehl 2002; Mughal 1997; Kenoyer 2005, 2008; Wright 2010). This depopulation occurred coincident with dramatic changes in the patterning and amount of rainfall in the Indus Valley (Petrie et al. 2017), the area around Harappa (Wright et al. 2008), and regionally (Giosan et al. 2012), but does Diamond’s model hold? Did climate change, if not hostile neighbors, cause this “collapse?” Firstly, archaeologists and bioarchaeologists know that before we can try to discuss large regional patterns in the past, we need a detailed locally contextualized record from each site (Chap. 4). As the Indus civilization covers an extensive and highly variable geographical area, with vast differences in environmental characteristics and climatic changes through time, archaeologists have tended to approach the rise and the eventual end of this civilization, as well as the social processes between, with a strong, local focus (Chakrabarti 2009; Petrie et al. 2017; Shinde 2016; Shinde et al. 2006; Wright 2010). In this chapter, we address the impact of climate change and the human security concept of “vulnerability” (defined above as freedom from fear and want) using bioarchaeological evidence for changing patterns of health and safety in one city, Harappa, which is located in the heart of the Indus Valley. We then contextualize the data from Harappa within the biocultural


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circumstances of other South Asian communities dealing with environmental changes in the millennium after the Indus civilization declined. Our research question is: Do we see evidence of challenges to health and safety and those that are principally derived from climatic changes across this transition? Alternatively, are there sociocultural and historical factors that shaped a particular experience at Harappa? Were those experiences different from the biocultural circumstances of climate changes in other late Holocene communities in South Asia? By examining the long arc of culture change in urban and rural communities across the Late Holocene in South Asia, we are proximately interested in demonstrating that a nuanced, locally contextualized view of climatic and cultural change is required to elucidate social and cultural factors affecting outcomes in human communities over time. Our ultimate goal is to demonstrate how a strong foundation in anthropological theory can overcome determinist frameworks, repopulate the past with human agents, and suggest intricacies in the predictions for our human futures.

Climate and Bioarchaeology in Late Holocene South Asia Evidence for climate change in the region around the city of Harappa has been accumulating for decades. In the Indus Valley, aridification seems to have intensified throughout the latter half of the Holocene (for the past 5000 years), but fluvial landscapes in Pakistan seem to have been remarkably stable during that time (Giosan et al. 2012). A decline in flood intensity corresponded with the initiation of rapid urbanization after 2500 BCE (Giosan et al. 2012), and there is good evidence for reductions in monsoon rainfall in the immediate area around Harappa beginning in 2200 BCE and continuing perhaps as late as 1600 BCE (Berkelhammer et al. 2013; Dixit et al. 2014; Staubwasser et al. 2003; Wright et al. 2008). The region around Harappa was primarily watered by monsoon rainfall and monsoon-fed rivers at the time, and many of these channels either dried up or became seasonal at this time (Giosan et al. 2012). During the late urban, the transitional, and throughout the post-­ urban (disintegration) periods at Harappa, there is good evidence that the decline in precipitation impacted rain-fed agriculture, perhaps contributing to decisions to diversify the subsistence economy (Fuller and Madella 2001; Giosan et al. 2012; Miller 2006; Petrie et al. 2017; Wright et al. 2008). By the end of the urban phase, cities like Harappa were primarily relying on the import of drought-resistant rabi, or winter crops—barley, wheat, lentils, peas, and chickpeas—but over time, increasingly incorporated kharif foods, millet, rice, and pulses, specifically adapted for summer rains (Fuller 2011; Fuller and Madella 2001; Madella and Fuller 2006; Petrie et al. 2016; Weber 2003; Weber et al. 2010). The city of Harappa, at the heart of the Indus civilization, serves as a perfect archaeological case study for testing predictions from the human security literature over the longue durée because there are human skeletal communities preserved from the urban, mature phase (Cemetery R-37, 2550–2000 BCE), a transitional phase (Area G, 2000–1900 BCE), the disintegration era or post-urban phase

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Table 6.1  Age and Sex of skeletons from Harappa Sample (date BCE) R-37 (2550–2000) Area G (2000–1900) H, stratum II (1900–1700) H, stratum I (1700–1300) Total

N total 108  23  78  26 235

n examined  66  23  45  26 160

Immature  3  9 15  6 33

YA F  9  2  5  4 20

M 3 1 0 0 4

MA F M 3 2 2 3 2 0 2 0 9 5

OA F M 3 7 0 1 1 3 1 0 5 11

Indet. adult 31  5 19 13 68

(Cemetery H, Stratum I, 1900–1700 BCE), and to the succeeding Chalcolithic period (Cemetery H, Stratum II, 1700–1300 BCE). Large numbers of skeletons have been excavated from the diverse burial areas at the city of Harappa. In 2011, Robbins Schug evaluated 160 of 235 individuals excavated at Harappa (Table 6.1) for evidence of trauma (Robbins Schug et al. 2012), infection (Robbins Schug et al. 2013), and nutritional insufficiency (Robbins Schug and Blevins 2016). Lovell has evaluated an additional 19 complete adult skeletons from cemetery R-37 for evidence of trauma and other pathological conditions1 (Lovell 2014a, b) and has addressed the bioarchaeological evidence as a whole on a variety of research questions about Indus people (Lovell 2016). Based on these analyses, we know that the rate of cranial injury at Harappa (15.5%) was the highest of any skeletal collection in South Asia, from the Paleolithic through the Iron Age, when cremation became predominant. Despite having a larger sample of individuals from the mature period, the urban population only demonstrated a frequency of 4% of crania with evidence of traumatic injuries (Lovell 2014a; Robbins Schug et al. 2012). In contrast, 50% of the crania examined from the transitional period and 38% of the crania examined from the post-urban period were affected by traumatic injuries (Robbins Schug et al. 2012). Not only was the percentage of affected individuals greater, but there were also new types of injuries, and a wider variety of people were affected in terms of age and sex. In the transitional and urban periods, after 200 years of climatic change and biocultural adaptation, we find a risk of violent injury among men, women, and children at Harappa. Males were more likely to have broken noses and sharp force trauma. Women and children primarily sustained blunt force injuries, some of which were likely fatal. Robbins Schug also examined evidence of infection and infectious disease in the skeletal material from Harappa (Robbins Schug et al. 2013). Aside from one non-­ specific periosteal lesions and two individuals with localized periosteal reactions (probably related to trauma), four individuals suffered from a maxillary sinus infection, nine individuals with skeletal lesions consistent with leprosy, and two individuals with skeletal lesions not inconsistent with tuberculosis (Robbins Schug et  al. 2013). Although the earliest evidence for maxillary infection and leprosy occurs in the mature period skeletons, the prevalence of leprosy increases dramati Lovell’s analysis of pathological conditions included the same 19 individuals as the trauma study plus 1 additional individual she located on display in the Harappa Museum. 1


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Fig. 6.1  Photograph of the 1928–29 excavation at Area G, Trench II taken by M.S. Vats from the North-East corner of Am 42/22 (reproduced from the original at the British Library)

cally though time, and the presence of tuberculosis is not demonstrated until the post-urban period. Both the evidence for violence and that of infectious disease was greatest in a marginal burial population that existed in an ossuary deposit in Area G. Area G was located southeast of the city walls around Mound E, and while new excavations in that area could prove there is another cemetery in that part of the site (Kenoyer, Personal Communication), the 20 isolated crania included in the present analysis were piled in a trench with a single prone burial (Fig. 6.1) and a collection of isolated post-cranial remains of humans and other animals. The first cervical vertebra (atlas) was present for the prone burial, and the presence of a cut mark across the left superior articular condyle suggests that humans deliberately disarticulated at least one of the crania piled in this trench (Fig.  6.2). That individual (G.289) also demonstrated lesions consistent with lepromatous leprosy (Robbins Schug et al. 2013). The social organization of the Indus civilization has been much disputed over time, largely framed in light of prevailing trends in archaeology as a whole (Robbins Schug 2017). Initially, based on a West Asian analogy, Piggott (1950) and Wheeler (1953) suggested that these ancient cities, like Harappa, fit a model of hierarchical and exploitative state formation because of their monumental architecture, craft specialization, standardization of weights and measures, and development of a writing system; these features suggested administration of a uniform social landscape and material culture across vast distances (Robbins Schug 2017). A heterarchical framework (see, e.g., Crumley 1979, 1995) was later mapped onto the civilization based on the argument that the major urban centers were separated by hundreds of

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Fig. 6.2  First cervical vertebra labeled G.289, suggesting it belonged to the articulated skeleton depicted in Fig. 6.1. A cutmark on the left occipital condyle is evidence of human mortuary behavior, possibly related to decapitation

kilometers on average and were only integrated through ideological means and shared values, as opposed to a centralized administration. In this model, it was argued that the civilization would best be represented by a model of semiautonomous polities wherein shared authority was granted to independent but interacting sociopolitical units across this vast territory, a “first among equals” model (Possehl 1990, 1998, 2002). Based on the preeminence of this model for several decades in archaeology, the Indus civilization came to be widely viewed as a rare example of a large, urban, early civilization that had formed and was operated in the absence of structural violence, inequality, coercion, or exclusion. Unfortunately, on both sides of the argument, inferences about social organization were based on an absence of evidence for social exclusion and structural violence (Cork 2005, 2011). This makes sense in light of Crumley’s (2005) suggestion that in hierarchical societies, exclusion should emerge from the archaeological record, or Price and Feinman’s (2010) suggestion that hierarchy is evidenced by unequal access to power and resources. The problem with constructing an argument based on an absence of evidence is obviously that new information will come to light eventually, upon further investigation. Although Harappa (and Indus cities in general) does not resemble the models of state power and coercion we see in Mesopotamia or Egypt from this same time period, an internal analysis of the skeletal evidence from Harappa demonstrates that individuals excluded from the city cemeteries in the transitional and post-urban periods were twice as likely to suffer from violent injury to the cranium and were at much greater risk of demonstrating skeletal evidence of leprosy (Robbins Schug 2017). As there were some individuals with cranial trauma, TB, and leprosy who were buried in the cemetery during this time, it is possible that the disease itself was not the basis for exclusion from the cemetery but rather that there were other social phenomena related to identity, community, or geographical origin that were driving the different mortuary treatment (Robbins Schug 2016, 2017). Those other aspects of identity may also have been associated with greater risk for infection or traumatic injury. In other words, at Harappa we see evidence


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that the human security literature’s predictions about rates of violence and other risks (“vulnerability”) are at a surface level supported by these data. On a deeper level, and in a comparative framework generally adopted in anthropology, we find a reductionist and environmentally determinate narrative falls apart. First, there is no evidence for increased competition for food or other resources as a driving force for violent interaction. In the human security literature, violent “human nature” manifests due to the increased pressure of migration and competition for resources. In the case of Harappa, migration was a much more significant force in the urban mature period, when the size of the city grew from a small village to a city with a population greater than 20,000 people in just 2 centuries. Evidence for this immigration is found in isotopic ratios of human skeletons from the mature period cemetery (Lovell 2016; Valentine 2016). Yet, this influx of immigrants was associated with a much lower frequency of violent injuries in the skeletal population. Additionally, there is no evidence of nutritional insufficiency or stress markers during the urban or the post-urban period, until the prevalence of abnormal porosity and vitamin C deficiency (scurvy) increases among neonates and immature skeletons in the Chalcolithic period burials of cemetery H stratum II (1700–1300 BCE) (Robbins Schug and Blevins 2016). Thus, the specific predictions of the human security model are not supported by the data at Harappa. Rather than assuming that climate change is the primary threat to human security in the past, it appears more likely that there were cultural and ideological changes taking place at the same time, which likely had an influence on the human population to a larger degree than the increasing aridity, in and of itself. Evidence of changes in the mortuary treatment of people with leprosy through time suggest that the disease was first recognized and perhaps negatively signified, in the posturban period. After 200  years of climate, economic, political, and ideological change, the Late Harappans began removing the foot bones from burials of people with leprosy, and based on Foucault’s (1972) notion of tracing a trajectory of “othering” from the 0 point of a disease, it appears that while people buried in Area G (2000–1900 BCE) may have been vulnerable to violence and disease because of some other aspect of their identity, the Late Harappans (1900–1700 BCE) were making attempts to ameliorate the impacts of leprosy in the dead buried at Cemetery H through removing feet (Robbins Schug 2016). The commencement of this “othering” process in the mid-second millennium BCE is also evident in oral traditions of the time (e.g., the Atharva Veda), which described leprosy as a mark of corruption but one that was curable through medical and ritual practice. It was not until much later, in the Early Historic period (300 BCE), that this type of skin disease is described as completely stigmatized, a mark of intergenerational corruption, a divine retribution for particular criminal acts, and worthy of exclusion from basic social life (Robbins Schug 2016). In the case of Harappa, climate change was associated with cultural changes, and over time, certain communities did face increased “vulnerability” (threats to health and safety). However, it appears that structural aspects of the hierarchical social organization, rapid urbanization, and failure of the long-distance exchange network first were the primary causes of this vulnerability. Later, the introduction of highly

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visible disfiguring infectious disease in combination with specific traditions, ritual, and spiritual beliefs may have set an “othering” process in motion and led to even greater risks of violence and exclusion. The story is much more nuanced still when we consider that there is little evidence for nutritional insufficiency until the Chalcolithic period at Harappa (1700–1300 BCE), when maternal and infantile scurvy and abnormal porosity in immature remains suggest a profound disruption to the subsistence system at that time. The contrast with the apparent relative nutritional sufficiency of the urban and post-urban periods suggests competition for resources was not a driving factor in the violence we see over time, as climate changed at Harappa. The concept of “vulnerability” (in the human security sense) has even less salience when it is examined in different types of human social organizations. For example, the Chalcolithic population living at Harappa (cemetery H, stratum I) can also be compared with a contemporaneous rural population from an agrarian community to the south, at a site called Inamgaon located along a different river valley in west-central peninsular India. In west-central India, aridification began after 1500 BCE, during a phase known as the Early Jorwe (1400–1000 BCE). Aridity at this time, similar to the mature period at Harappa, was initially associated with rapid population growth (Dhavalikar et al. 1988; Robbins Schug 2011). Toward the end of the second millennium BCE, the combination of rapid population growth and over-­irrigation led to increasing soil salinity and declines in agricultural production (Kajale 1988). The majority of 200 villages and hamlets that had grown up in this region were abandoned around 1000 BCE.  The people of Inamgaon persisted, shifting their agricultural strategy away from drought-resistant cereals, toward saline-­tolerant lentils and peas (Kajale 1988), shifting from cattle-keeping to sheep and goat herding and increasing reliance on hunting and lacustrine resources (Thomas 1988). The environmental changes that led to the abandonment of cereal agriculture had profound impacts on the human population. Of 171 infants and children who were buried under house floors in the Jorwe period at Inamgaon (Table 6.2), there is clear evidence of increasing numbers of infants affected by skeletal emaciation over time (Robbins Schug 2011; Robbins Schug and Goldman 2014). This skeletal emaciation appears to be related to nutritional deficiency, diarrheal disease, or some combination of biocultural stressors based on reduced bone strength (values for biomechanical proxies for strength, Zp and J) despite evidence for incipient locomotor acquisition (Robbins Schug 2011; Robbins Schug and Goldman 2014). In addition, histology demonstrated an increase in compact bone pore volume consistent with a disruption to homeostatic balance in osteoblastic and osteoclastic activity (Robbins Schug and Goldman 2014). While Chalcolithic period perinatal and infant skeletons from Harappa demonstrated evidence for vitamin C deficiency, the infants and children from Inamgaon were more likely to suffer from protein-calorie malnutrition. In neither case was there any evidence for interpersonal violence associated with resource scarcity. As opposed to the unified vision of collapse presented by the human security literature, the experience of environmental change and a massive reorganization of the human


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Table 6.2  Demographic profile for immature skeletons from Harappa and Inamgaon Inamgaon

Age Category (months) Perinatal 1–12 13–24 25–36 37–48 49–60 61–72 73–84

EJ (1400–1000 BCE) n %  9 16 16 28  4 7  4 7  5 9  1 2  1 2  1 2

LJ (1000–700 BCE) n % 18 16 40 35 12 11 10 9 5 4 5 4 6 5 2 2

Harappa Cemetery H (stratum I) (c. 1700–1300 BCE) n % 7 47 1 7 1 7 1 7 2




Percentages are calculated from the total number of subadults at each site, including individuals who died between 85 and 192 months of age, who were not included here. There were 57 subadults in total from the EJ and 114 from the LJ periods at Inamgaon and there were 15 total from Stratum I at Cemetery H, Harappa

population was quite different in these two communities. In both cases, there is evidence for climate or environmental change. In both cases, the majority of the human population emigrated away from the settlements they had occupied for centuries. However, at Inamgaon the abandonment of cereal agriculture appears to have led to protein-calorie malnutrition and soaring infant mortality rates (Robbins Schug 2011), while in the post-urban Harappan population, we initially find high rates of violence and disease, but micronutrient deficiency does not occur in the skeletal assemblage until many centuries after the region is abandoned.

Conclusions This chapter has reviewed perspectives on climate change and its impacts on human society from a variety of sources—US government planning and policy documents, the human security literature that informs policy-makers, and the popular authors, like Jared Diamond. We have demonstrated how tropes about human nature and human-environmental interactions have come to prominence in US government policy and planning about global warming. We have outlined the history of the human security field of inquiry and how it came to be dominated by determinist frameworks. We have described predictions that derive from this literature, and we have provided an evaluation of these predictions using bioarchaeological data on the biocultural consequences of climate change in a complex society in South Asia’s prehistory. The predictions from the human security literature might appear reasonable on the surface, but a closer examination of the evidence demonstrates a great degree of complexity and nuance in the archaeological record, even for just this one time period in a single region.

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It is our hope that bioarchaeologists will continue to accumulate research on the impacts of climate change in the past and that these expressions of complexity will be employed in an anti-determinist, alternative narrative in the discourse on global warming. Bioarchaeologists are uniquely situated to speak out on questions of “human nature,” violence (see Chap. 3), and the “struggle to survive” in the face of a changing climate. Our voices must be raised to represent the true and actual diversity of human experiences in the past and human responses to climate change. Particularly given the present political context, nuanced research on climate change is almost imperative to avoid the real violence that is perpetuated when reductionist, essentialist, and determinist narratives proliferate ( We hope this chapter will be a useful beginning in directly addressing public and scholarly discourse in the human security field and in the public planning and policy world.

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Chapter 7

Stone Agers in the Fast Lane? How Bioarchaeologists Can Address the Paleo Diet Myth Hallie R. Buckley and Jane E. Buikstra

Introduction “Paleo diets” (PDs) have been characterized as having foods that we “were born to eat.” The justification for their healthful nature is based upon the assumption that they reflect the foods our Stone Age ancestors ate ( They are further justified in terms of studies today that allege healthful benefits. Here we first describe the general nature of PDs and the assumptions made in defining them. We then address whether or not there is actually archaeological support for our hominin ancestors consuming this diet. In doing so, we adopt a broadly defined bioarchaeological perspective, which includes both the study of ancient humans and also the chemical and microfossil evidence for human diet and subsistence in the past. Also relevant to this issue is the degree to which diseases that today afflict individuals not consuming PD also occurred in the past under traditional dietary regimes. One of these is gout, part of a constellation of conditions linked to the metabolic syndrome (MetS), which includes a suite of risk factors such as stress, high blood pressure, obesity, high fasting blood sugar, and elevated serum uric acid levels. The MetS also increases the risk of conditions such as type II diabetes, stroke, and heart disease (Alberti et al. 2009; Eckel et al. 2005; Kaur 2014). Although gout was mentioned in an early reference to the syndrome (Kylin 1923), the linkage of MetS with diabetes and cardiovascular disease dominated subsequent studies (e.g., Eckel et al. 2005; Alberti et al. 2009; Grundy et al. 2005; Kaur 2014; Wilson et al. 2005). Recently, however, attention has been returned to the relationship H. R. Buckley (*) Department of Anatomy, University of Otago, Otago, New Zealand e-mail: [email protected] J. E. Buikstra School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA e-mail: [email protected] © Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019 J. E. Buikstra (ed.), Bioarchaeologists Speak Out, Bioarchaeology and Social Theory,



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Fig. 7.1  Illustration of different prevalence rates (%) of metabolic syndrome (MetS) and gout in adult men from the USA and New Zealand European, Maori, and Pacific populations (prevalence data sourced from Simmons and Thompson 2004; Winnard et al. 2012; Kuo et al. 2015)

between gout and MetS (Choi and Driwantoro 2007; Fraile et al. 2010; Lanaspa et al. 2011; Li et al. 2013; Puig and Martínez 2008; Wei et al. 2015). MetS and attendant diseases are known to be high and increasing in the Western world. Less fully appreciated is the fact that gout, the only MetS-associated pathological condition that reliably leaves a skeletal record, is also of high frequency in Oceania, as well as among the Maori, Australian Aboriginal peoples, and East Asians when compared to contemporaries of European ancestry from the same region (Fig. 7.1; Chang et al. 1997; Dao et al. 2010; Darmawan et al. 1992; Klemp et al. 1997; Kuo et al. 2015; Minaur et al. 2004; Winnard et al. 2012; Rose and Prior 1963). By presenting here a case study that explores the origins and antiquity of gout in the Pacific Islands, we provide a diachronic, bioarchaeological perspective on the relationship between MetS and traditional diets in an area so far untouched by popular debates about PDs.

Paleo Diet (PD) Debates So, what is the nature of these PD debates? What ideas have driven the exploration of different dieting fads in recent years, and why is the concept so popular? Recent decades have witnessed global concerns about obesity and diseases related to diets high in saturated fats and sugars. Rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and hypertension have reached epidemic proportions ( As the world’s population, at least in industrialized countries, is aging, there has become an increasing need for mitigating the clinical effects of obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and other metabolic syndrome sequelae, such as gout. It is universally accepted that much of the problem in “modernized populations” could be controlled through a “better diet.” The controversy, of course,

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is just what this diet might be. Perhaps we should revert to a diet that reflects our evolutionary past—the “Paleo diet”—or perhaps other traditional regional diets. First, however, we should consider whether or not the PD is a true reflection of our evolutionary past. A basic Google search today on “Paleo diet” will yield nearly seven million hits. The basis for this diet is founded on an evolutionary discordance hypothesis, derived from the thrifty genotype hypothesis discussed below, that modern human populations are in fact “Stone Agers in the fast lane” (Eaton et al. 1988) who are genetically programmed to eat foods that would have been consumed by our preagricultural ancestors (Armelagos et  al. 2004; Turner and Thompson 2014). The adoption of agriculture, with its reliance on cereal-based staples, dairy products (in some parts of the world), and our addiction to refined sugars, apparently is fighting against our ancestral genotype, which is better adapted to the foods our Stone Age ancestors ate, including meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and “healthy fats.” If we want to lose weight and be healthy, we are told to avoid all grains, legumes, dairy, starches, and processed foods ( These Internet-based PD plans claim to be based on scientific studies that are said to have helped to reduce the symptoms of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and weight in postmenopausal women, but primary sources of this research are not cited. So what have the scientific studies actually shown? Numerous studies have compared the PD to other diets, testing whether there is a reduction in metabolic syndrome symptoms in those consuming the PD (e.g., Lindeberg et al. 2007; Frassetto et al. 2009; Klonoff 2009; Manheimer et al. 2015). For example, one study found a greater glucose tolerance and weight circumference loss in the PD group compared to those consuming a Mediterranean diet based on whole grains, low-fat dairy products, vegetables, fruits, fish, oils, and margarines (Lindeberg et al. 2007). Similarly, a recent review of randomized controlled studies comparing the PD with other controlled diets in people with MetS components found that evidence for moderate short-term improvements were greater in the PD group (Manheimer et al. 2015). Another study showed weight loss in postmenopausal women on a PD, which is important as women in this age group are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease due to accumulation of visceral fat deposits (Ryberg et  al. 2013). But, are these health improvements sustained and beneficial in the absence of MetS conditions, and is this diet really Paleo?

Was There a Ubiquitous Stone Age Diet? PD Assumptions and Bioarchaeological Response The PD model relies on several assumptions to support its healthful benefits. Firstly, archaeological evidence of a Stone Age diet is used to support the Paleo way of life. Material culture and faunal remains are provided as evidence for intensive animal


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hunting as the primary source of food in this period. This notion is embedded in the big-game hunting paradigms that have been so pervasive in many anthropological models of past diet (Henry et al. 2014). This model, writ large in the Lee and DeVore (1968) Man the Hunter volume, has been criticized by feminists and others who argue for a more inclusive consideration of both archaeological and ethnographic information (Conkey and Spector 1984; Gero and Conkey 1991; Hart and Sussman 2005). Further, the PD model rests on the assumption that it was not until the Neolithic and the adoption of agriculture that the plant component of the diet became important in human groups. Together, these assumptions form the basis for the diet’s argument that it is the plant-based aspects of modern diet that are harmful to our species. In these sweeping assumptions, the PD model suggests that the diet of Paleolithic peoples was universal and that no genetic change or diversity has occurred in populations over time (Turner and Thompson 2014). Similarly, the diet assumes genetic homogeneity in modern humans with regard to the propensity for developing MetS, without accounting for variation in post-agricultural adoption evolutionary pressures, such as infectious disease and founder effects with human migrations (see below) (Gosling et al. 2015) (although this assumption is not restricted to Paleo diet proponents (e.g., Reale et al. 1999; Rogers and Waldron 2001)). In this chapter, we argue the various methods used in bioarchaeology to reconstruct the life ways of past people place this discipline in a powerful position to address these assumptions and debates. Bioarchaeology uses direct evidence from the tissues of the people who interacted within the biocultural environment of the time. In recent years, stable isotope analyses of the bones and teeth of our Paleolithic ancestors have investigated the nature of Stone Age diets, particularly whether they were more terrestrial or more aquatic-based. These studies have helped to characterize dietary shifts and variation over time, and they demonstrate much more variation in the diet of Paleolithic populations than the PD proponents would acknowledge (Richards and Hedges 1999; Richards et al. 2000a, b, 2001a, b, 2003, 2005, 2008; Richards and Trinkaus 2009). For example, Richards et al. (2001) found that Mid-­ Upper Paleolithic early anatomically modern humans were exploiting significant amounts of inland freshwater aquatic resources compared with contemporary Neanderthal populations, who were subsisting primarily on terrestrial protein, presumably large herbivores. The isotope evidence of Neanderthal diet from the wider region seems to confirm further the archaeological models of these populations behaving as top-level carnivores (Richards et al. 2000a, b). This variation in diets of contemporaneous hominin populations is dependent on the particular ecology in which the population lived, not on temporal shifts, negating one of the essential Paleo diet assumptions—the ubiquitous nature of Stone Age diet. These analyses of the chemical variation in diet also bolstered the view that the Neanderthal’s reliance on big-game hunting was maladaptive in the long term (Hockett 2012), while early modern humans’ more broad-spectrum diet explains their eventual domination of our species (Hockett and Haws 2005; Hockett 2012). Granted, stable isotopes in bone and tooth collagen (the chemical component most frequently used in isotope studies) offer information on variation in protein

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c­ onsumption (mostly animal protein), but these data cannot fully account for the plant component of the diet, as animal proteins tend to swamp the isotope values of plant protein (Henry et al. 2014). However, the continued applications of different methods for understanding variations in Paleolithic subsistence strategies have shed light on the underlying premise of the PD model. We will review one of these developing methods in the following section.

 hat Plant Microfossils Are Revealing About the Reality W of a Paleo Diet Studies of plant microfossils and DNA trapped in dental calculus from fossil and modern humans have increased dramatically in recent years (e.g., Tromp et al. 2016; Warinner et al. 2014; Warinner et al. 2015), and they offer potential for revisiting some age-old archaeological questions. The benefit of examining plant microfossils from dental calculus over other sources, such as sediment deposits and tools, is based on the assumption that items such as plants generally enter the oral cavity intentionally (Tromp et al. 2016). Thus, microparticles embedded in dental calculus provide a direct way of examining an individual’s diet. Recent research focusing on plant microfossils in dental calculus shows that, in fact, even Neanderthals were eating more plant foods than previously thought (Henry and Piperno 2008; Henry et al. 2011, 2014). These floral remains included dates, legumes, and grass seeds, all typical of modern diets (Henry et al. 2011). Some of the starch grains found also showed evidence of having been heated, presumably from cooking. Therefore, the lack of dietary breadth in Neanderthal populations previously used to explain their disappearance cannot be supported (Henry et al. 2011) and further erodes the view of plant foods being primarily of post-agricultural importance. Other studies using biomarkers in dental calculus have reinforced this finding and furthered the notion of the use of medicinal plants in the Paleolithic (Hardy et al. 2012). These microfossils, found in the calculus from hominins in the Qesem Cave site, Israel (420– 200 ka), have increased “the evidence for consumption of plant foods containing essential nutrients including polyunsaturated fatty acids and carbohydrates, into the Lower Paleolithic” (Hardy et al. 2016, p. 129). This brief review of the body of work on the plant component of Paleolithic diet shows how new bioarchaeological methods can shift paradigms within our field, for example, from a man as the hunter-centric view to more broad-spectrum-type subsistence during this period. Based on evidence from the bioarchaeological record of a Stone Ager’s diet, it would appear that we can include grains, legumes, and starches within our twenty-first-century PD. Thus, there is no archaeological or evolutionary basis for the exclusion of cereal-based plant foods in a modern PD. Aside from these issues, a further concern with the PD is the suite of Eurocentric views and assumptions that persists in the literature and is associated with both sides of the PD debate. In particular, we will address here the assumptions that modern populations have a similar genetic propensity for developing MetS, a notion that is the


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driving force for the advocacy of adopting the PD in the first place (Turner and Thompson 2014). Some clinical dietary studies have used the apparent shift to Westernized, often cereal-based, diets to explain the development of degenerative physiological diseases, particularly among indigenous groups (O’Keefe and Cordain 2004; Lindeberg et al. 2007). While there is a very real problem with MetS-related conditions related to high-fat diets and obesity in some of these populations, the deep history trends and underlying genetic differences in the propensity for the development of diseases such as gout and type II diabetes are not usually considered. Similarly, bioarchaeological studies often make general assumptions about the close relationship between certain MetS diseases, such as gout and possibly diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH), and diet. This may be the case in some or even most European populations, but it does not necessarily pertain to other, genetically distinct parts of the world. Thus, we argue that it is worthwhile to have a look beyond Europe and the Americas to the Pacific Islands. In the following section, we review the settlement of the Pacific Islands and the dietary habits there, exploring the possible bony evidence of MetS-related conditions to consider why people in this region have some of the highest rates of gout and other MetS conditions in the world.

The Rest of the World? MetS and Gout in the Pacific Islands The Western Pacific region, including Australia, was colonized from Asia by modern humans during the last glacial maximum. Homo erectus and early modern human populations living in what is today Island Southeast Asia exploited various food sources, including plants and marine resources (Choi and Driwantoro 2007; Joordens et al. 2009; Semah et al. 2010). The Neolithic colonization of the more remote Pacific Islands and more recent East Polynesian migrations were some of the most challenging migration events in human history, requiring sea voyaging technology not seen again until European explorations. Around 40,000 years before present (YBP), during the Pleistocene, New Guinea and the islands of northern Melanesia were joined to Australia to form the ancient continent of Sahul. New Guinea and the northern Melanesian islands constitute the region of Near Oceania, which marks the eastern limit of human colonization until around 3300 YBP (Spriggs 1997; Kirch 2000; Petchey et al. 2014). At this time the descendants of the initial inhabitants met with a new group of people from Island Southeast Asia, the Lapita, who rapidly colonized the coastal regions of Near and Remote Oceania and eventually Polynesia (Fig. 7.2). The archaeological remains of many Lapita settlements throughout Near and Remote Oceania attest to the success of these colonizing events. The pre-Lapita inhabitants of this region settled inland on the large islands and are archaeologically visible within only a few rock-shelter sites (Spriggs 1997), and all of Remote Oceania was uninhabited by humans until the appearance of Lapita. These Neolithic forager-gardeners moved into the area carrying with them their own transported landscape of domesticated plants and animals, eventually colonizing Polynesia (Kirch 2000). New genetic evidence seems to

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Fig. 7.2  Map of the Pacific Islands showing the division between Near and Remote Oceania and the geographical extent of Lapita archaeological sites

support a long-held belief of a direct colonization from Island Southeast Asia of Lapita peoples into Vanuatu and western Polynesia (Skoglund et al. 2016). Clinical studies of the PD frequently use Pacific populations as examples of a “Stone Age” dietary benchmark (Lindeberg et al. 2007). The high prevalence of hyperuricemia and gout among modern Māori and other Polynesian populations is assumed to have been caused by changes in lifestyle and diet after contact with Europeans (Doherty 2009; Gosling et  al. 2014). Hyperuricemia and gout are included in the health problems related to MetS, and rates of these conditions have in fact increased in recent years with the adoption of more Westernized diets (Ogle 2001). Obesity (WHO 2000), obesity-related hypertension (Panapasa et al. 2015), and type II diabetes are also extremely high among Polynesian peoples (Cockram 2000). If we consider the issue of gout, in particular, we see that modern Pacific Island populations have the highest frequencies in the world (Fig.  7.3; Rose and Prior 1963; Gibson et al. 1984; Silman and Hochberg 2001; Gosling et al. 2014; Poor and Mituszova 2003). This high prevalence has led to the suggestion that “the people of the Pacific belong to one large gouty family” (Kellgren 1964 cited in Prior 1981, p. 214). Consistent with worldwide trends, increasingly high prevalence of gout in both Māori and European males in New Zealand have been reported (Klemp et al. 1997). Higher prevalence of gout in some Polynesian populations compared to Europeans is thought to be due to a genetic predisposition for hyperuricemia, particularly in males (Gibson et al. 1984). Female Polynesians also have higher frequencies of hyperuricemia compared with Europeans (Simmonds et  al. 1994). A genetic marker for gout susceptibility in Taiwanese aboriginal peoples (part of the Austronesian language group) has been identified, which the authors believe suggests that a “founder effect” was responsible for the high prevalence of gout in some Pacific Island populations (Cheng et al. 2004). Recently, high frequencies of renal


H. R. Buckley and J. E. Buikstra

Fig. 7.3  From Kuo et al. (2015), this map demonstrates the estimated prevalence of gout across the world

urate transporter SLC2A9 haplotypes associated with susceptibility to gout have been reported in modern Māori and Pacific Islanders in New Zealand (Hollis-Moffat et al. 2009; Tanner et al. 2017). This genetic predisposition results in impairment of uric acid excretion causing hyperuricemia and may be exacerbated by the adverse effects of urbanization (Gibson et al. 1984; Simmonds et al. 1994). For example, on Pukapuka in the Cook Islands, alcohol is rarely consumed, but gout rates are second only to the New Zealand Māori males (Prior 1981). This high frequency of gout in the Pacific Islands is not universal. Hawaiians, Tongans, and Papuans show high rates of hyperuricemia compared with Europeans, but clinical gout is low or negligible, suggesting as yet unknown factors protecting against the development of clinical disease (Prior 1981).

The Paleopathology of Gout in the Pacific Islands To better understand this apparent difference in susceptibility to gout, it is essential to address the question of the antiquity of MetS in the Pacific region. We argue that this region had some of the highest rates of MetS discovered in our species prior to the adoption of a westernized diet, and we will now consider the presence of related conditions in skeletal remains of Lapita and their descendants. Paleopathology, considered a subfield of bioarchaeology, focuses upon the study of disease in the past using the skeletonized and sometimes mummified remains of humans, mostly from archaeological sites (Aufderheide and Rodríguez-Martín 1998). The epidemiology of gout in the past, or paleoepidemiology, has the potential to inform on the origins and antiquity of modern patterns of the disease. However,

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investigating the paleoepidemiology of gout is limited by small sample sizes, ethical considerations, and the biases inherent in the study of mortuary samples rather than a living population (Waldron 1994, 2007). As a means of diagnosing diseases affecting humans in the past, paleopathology is also somewhat limited as bone tissue can respond in only one of two ways to disease, by either producing more bone (osteoblastic) or removing bone (osteoclastic) (Ortner 2003). Therefore, it is the pattern of the different types of lesions in the skeleton that can aid in the diagnosis of disease in ancient humans (Lovell 2000). Because of these limitations, only the presence, as opposed to the prevalence, of gout in prehistory can be discussed. The chronic tophaceous arthritis associated with gout may cause erosive para-­ articular and articular changes in synovial joints, particularly at the first metatarsophalangeal joint. Tophi, which are crystalline uric acid deposits at the surface of joints or in skin or cartilage, are nearly universal in gout (Resnick and Niwayama 1995). The erosive process in bone makes gout potentially visible in archaeological human skeletons and allows a glimpse of the disease in the past (Rogers 2000). Chronic gout causes slow-forming but permanent bone changes. The tophi create cystic erosions within the bone on the outer cortical contour (Resnick and Niwayama 1995). Bone erosion begins on the joint margins and can eventually encroach into the bone under the articular cartilage (subchondral). Lesions are usually asymmetric and have a “punched-out” appearance with overhanging margins and a sclerotic “floor” (Resnick and Niwayama 1995; Rogers and Waldron 1995). Other arthropathies also cause erosive lesions of joints, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and the seronegative spondyloarthropathies. Gouty lesions may be distinguished from RA by the presence of a radiodense sclerotic margin of the gouty lesion (Rogers and Waldron 1995) or in dry bone a sclerotic “floor” (Buckley 2007); the lesions of active RA lack a sclerotic margin due to generalized bone destruction or osteopenia associated with the disease (Rogers and Waldron 1995). Assuming a complete skeleton is available for study, the distinctive pattern of lesions in the digits, particularly of the hands, can also aid in differentiating between the diseases (Rogers and Waldron 1995). However, in many cases it is not possible to firmly diagnose gout or RA in prehistoric skeletons due to factors such as poor bone preservation and missing skeletal elements (Rogers et al. 1987). Bony evidence of gout in prehistoric Southeast Asia is negligible, though there are examples. Two individuals with periarticular “smooth-walled lytic defects” of single metatarsals were reported from the Thai site of Ban Chiang (2100 BC–200 AD) (Pietrusewsky and Douglas 2002). The authors raise the possibility of gout as a cause of the lesions. Possible gout is described in the feet of four individuals from the Apurguan site on Guam dated to the Latte period of prehistory (1000–1521 AD); three of those affected were males (Douglas et al. 1997). Skeletal evidence of gout was also found among the prehistoric Chamorro from the Gognga-Gun Beach site in Guam, Micronesia, dated to 950–1450 AD. Nearly 6% (N = 14/250) of the sample had periarticular erosive lesions characteristic of gout (Rothschild and Heathcote 1995). Of the 14 individuals with gout, males and females were affected evenly. The skeletal pattern of involvement was mostly monoarticular, but one male had erosive lesions in seven joints of the hands and feet.


H. R. Buckley and J. E. Buikstra

More recently a high prevalence (crude prevalence rate 35%, n = 7/20) of erosive lesions was reported in a 3000-year-old skeletal series from the Lapita-associated cemetery site of Teouma in Vanuatu (Buckley 2007). Most of the seven males with erosive lesions from this site had monoarticular involvement; however, one middle-­ aged male had severe erosive changes in most joints of the appendicular and axial skeleton. The differential diagnosis of the lesions included gout, rheumatoid arthritis, and the seronegative spondyloarthropathies. As with all archaeological remains, it is difficult to definitively diagnose the cause of erosive lesions based on the bone lesions alone. However, based on the high frequencies of gout in modern Pacific Island populations and the relative scarcity of the other diseases, gout was proposed tentatively as the cause of the erosions (Buckley 2007). A recent reexamination of a 600-year-old skeletal sample, representing initial colonizers of the Wairau Bar in the north of the South Island of New Zealand, found evidence of gout in the hands and/or feet of five males from the site (Buckley et al. 2010). Lesions in four of those affected were limited to one or two metatarsal joints; however, one young male had multiple erosive lesions in the feet and hands. Evidence for gout in prehistoric skeletal samples from around the globe also has shown low frequencies of the disease in Britain and Europe, despite it being so commonly cited in the historical literature (Buckley 2011). Anecdotal evidence of gout was reported in prehistoric New Zealand Māori (Houghton 1980) but later doubted (Houghton 1996). As gout is a disease of the elderly in modern populations, a possible explanation for the difference is the relatively low age at death (40 years), which may have influenced this “high” observed frequency of gout. However, Polynesians as we know them biologically and culturally did not exist 3000 years ago, and groups like this Lapita population may have contributed genetically to the founding Polynesian populations. Therefore, the presence of gout in these colonizing people may shed some light on the biological basis of modern patterns of disease in Polynesia. Based on linguistic and archaeological evidence, it has been argued that Lapita societies were stratified with differentiation based on age and sex (Kirch 1997). Dietary stable isotope evidence from the Teouma site has revealed that males were probably consuming more protein than females with consequent maternal and fetal stress (Kinaston et al. 2009, 2014; Buckley et al. 2014). Archaeologically, there is no clear correlation between status and those affected with gout in the Teouma sample; however, it is possible that the preferential consumption of protein by males contributed to the pattern observed at Teouma, although this high frequency may be explained by hormonal factors predisposing males to gout in all populations. Further isotope analysis on the diet of those affected by gout and DISH in these samples has shown that higher protein consumption does not account for the presence  of these conditions in this population (Foster et  al. 2018). The site of the Wairau Bar is the type site of the earliest phase of New Zealand’s prehistory (Walter et al. 2006). The most recent radiocarbon dating from the site suggests a brief occupation ~ 1288–1300 AD (Higham et al. 1999). The archaeological importance of the Wairau Bar was based partly on richly furnished graves with material culture containing elements almost indistinguishable from Eastern Polynesian assemblages (Duff 1977). The most striking of those graves with superb preservation of skeletons and rich grave offerings such as perforated moa eggs and

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stunning jewelry were Burials 2–7, the males with erosive lesions suggestive of gout. These individuals were the best preserved at the site, making observations of the pertinent bones possible, while in most other individuals, poor preservation precluded this. However the special treatment in death of these individuals, possibly reflecting higher status, may have been associated with their propensity for the development of gout. This context of diet, status, and attitudes to food cannot fully explain the high prevalence of gout in modern populations or in the past. Rather, it is likely that a genetic predisposition to hyperuricemia was present, conferring some selective advantage to the founding populations of Polynesia. The “thrifty genotype hypothesis” first proposed by Neel in 1962 has been used to explain high frequencies of obesity, diabetes mellitus, and hypertension, among other diseases of modernization in modern Pacific Islander males to gout compared to other populations (Neel 1962). This hypothesis posits that prehistoric populations living in environments prone to food scarcity (Prentice et al. 2008) will have had a “genotype” protecting them against starvation by maintaining low basal metabolic rates and increased uptake of nutrients (Prentice et al. 2008) and increasing their likelihood of survival. This hypothesis has been hotly debated since its inception and reevaluated to include concepts such as the “fertility first hypothesis” (Corbett et al. 2009) and the association between low birth weight and the subsequent development of type II diabetes in later life (Whincup et al. 2009). A genetic predisposition for obesity, diabetes, and the metabolic syndrome (including hyperuricemia) is thought to have constituted a “thrifty genotype” in founding populations including Austronesian-derived Pacific Islanders (Bateson et  al. 2004). A connection between high frequencies of hyperuricemia and gout among Pacific Islanders and the “thrifty genotype” has not been specifically proposed before, although a possible “genetic” cause was proposed in early clinical accounts of gout in Māori (Rose and Prior 1963). Unfortunately, as yet there is no specific genetic evidence supporting the thrifty genotype hypothesis in the Pacific or elsewhere (Gosling et al. 2015). Regardless, while the presence of gout and hyperuricemia in the past may not seem clinically relevant to the evolutionary origins of diabetes or hypertension, it is one of the two diseases (including DISH) associated with the “metabolic syndrome” that are potentially visible in the skeletal record. Therefore the paleopathology of gout in the Pacific Islands may inform on the origin of modern patterns of the “syndrome” as a whole in this region and thus offer a model that is generally relevant.

Conclusions In this chapter we have critically reviewed the underlying assumptions of the PD by examining whether or not the bioarchaeological evidence for a universal Stone Age diet supports these assumptions. The isotope and microfossil evidence of diet from Stone Age peoples clearly demonstrates that no unifying Paleolithic diet existed and


H. R. Buckley and J. E. Buikstra

that the great scourge of cereals and legumes assumed to have afflicted our species in the Neolithic has in fact been part of our diet for hundreds of thousands of years. While the intention of the PD is to encourage eating unprocessed foods and has some health benefits for those suffering from MetS, the bioarchaeological evidence demonstrates that its foundations are built on nothing but conjecture regarding our ancestral roots. We have also used a case study of Pacific Islanders’ experiences with MetS and paleopathology evidence of gout to reexamine the very basis for the “necessity” of a return to a PD. As discussed, the ancestral diet (based on tuberous root crops, not cereals) and population history of Pacific islanders are completely different to the Old and New Worlds where the PD debate is entrenched. Yet the burden of MetS is extremely high in the Pacific. While the adoption of westernized diets has exacerbated the expression of MetS conditions in modern Polynesians, the paleopathological evidence (especially gout) suggests the origins of these conditions stems from their Lapita ancestors, who in turn trace their roots back to Island Southeast Asia. The evolutionary mechanism for this pattern has not been identified, but current views lean toward a selective advantage for hyperuricemia among these oceanic colonizing groups. By highlighting the Pacific Island situation of MetS, we ask that researchers step away from their Euro-North American-centric perspectives on global human health history to consider how this variability can strengthen our understanding of the source of modern health issues. The utility of considering different perspectives is exemplified in the PD story, whereby drawing on bioarchaeological methods for assessing diet in “Stone Age man” has not only managed to dispel the “truths” behind this myth but also bring a more nuanced narrative to the antiquated “man the hunter” paradigm.

 ommunicating Variable Disease Susceptibility Issues C to the Public This chapter has addressed several issues concerning the PD. We have found that in the deep past, as today, diets cannot be generalized, whether across Neanderthal groups or Archaic Homo sapiens. The PD simply did not exist as an essentialist construct in the past, which makes the evolutionary argument for its utility without merit. In addition, with our case study drawn from Oceania, we underscore the diversity of our species, its histories, its ecologies, its genetics, and its diets. These d­ ifferences extend over tens of thousands of years, and there simply was not and is no signature one-size-fits-all diet from humankind’s past that is universally healthful. On the other hand, changes in diets—especially drastic ones—are known to alter oral and physical health in groups with long-term regional adaptations. For this reason it is important for bioarchaeologists, paleopathologists, and archaeological chemists to continue to monitor changing patterns of diet, nutrition, and disease both within regions and across the globe.

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Littlejohn, G. O., & Hall, S. (1982). Diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis and new bone formation in male gouty subjects. Rheumatology International, 2, 83–86. Littlejohn, G. O., & Smythe, H. A. (1981). Marker hyperinsulinemia after glucose challenge in patients with diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis. Rheumatology, 8(6), 965–968. Lovell, N. (2000). Paleopathological description and diagnosis. In S. Saunders (Ed.), Biological anthropology of the human skeleton (pp. 217–248). New York: Wiley-Liss. Madert, R., & Lavi, I. (2009). Diabetes mellitus and hypertension as risk factors for early diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH). Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, 17(6), 825–828. Manheimer, E., van Zuuren, W., Fedorowicz, Z., & Pijl, H. (2015). Paleolithic nutrition for metabolic syndrome: Systematic review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 102, 922–932. Minaur, N., Sawyers, S., Parker, J., & Darmawan, J. (2004). Rheumatic disease in an Australian Aboriginal community in North Queensland, Australia. A WHO-ILAR COPCORD survey. Journal of Rheumatology, 31, 965–972. Neel, J.  (1962). Diabetes mellitus: A ‘thrifty’ genotype rendered detrimental by ‘progress’? American Journal of Human Genetics, 14, 353–362. O’Keefe, J., & Cordain, L. (2004). Cardiovascular disease resulting from a diet and lifestyle at odds with our Paleolithic genome: How to become a 21st-century huntergatherer. Mayo Clinical Proceedings, 79, 101–108. Ogle, G. (2001). Type 2 diabetes mellitus in Papua New Guinea—An historical perspective. PNG Medical Journal, 44(3), 81–87. Ortner, D. (Ed.). (2003). Identification of pathological conditions in human skeletal remains. San Diego, CA: Academic Press. Oxenham, M. F., Matsumura, H., & Nishimoto, T. (2006). Diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis in Late Jomon Hokkaido, Japan. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, 16(1), 34. Panapasa, S., McNally, J., Heeringa, S., & Williams, D. (2015). Impacts of long-term obesity on the health status of Samoan and Tongan men in the United States: Results from the Pacific islander health study. Ethnicity and Disease, 25(3), 279–286. Petchey, F., Spriggs, M., Bedford, S., Valentin, F., & Buckley, H. (2014). Radiocarbon dating of burials from the Teouma Lapita cemetery, Efate, Vanuatu. Journal of Archaeological Science, 50, 227–242. Pietrusewsky, M., & Douglas, M. T. (2002). Ban Chiang: A prehistoric village site in Northeast Thailand. I: The human skeletal remains. Philadelphia, PA: The University of Pennsylvania. Pollock, N. (1986). Food classification in three Pacific societies: Fiji, Hawaii, and Tahiti. Ethnology, 25(2), 107–117. Pollock, N. (1992). These Roots Remain: Food habits in islands of the central and eastern Pacific since western contact. Honolulu: The Institute for Polynesian Studies. Poor, G., & Mituszova, M. (2003). History, classification and epidemiology of crystal-related arthropathies. In M.  Weisman (Ed.), Rheumatology (Vol. 2, pp.  1893–1902). Edinburgh: Mosby. Prentice, A., Hennig, B., & Fulford, A. (2008). Evolutionary origins of the obesity epidemic: Natural selection of thrifty genes or genetic drfit following predation release? International Journal of Obesity, 32, 1607–1610. Puig, J. G., & Martinez, M. A. (2008). Hyperuricemia, gout and the metabolic syndrome. Current Opinion in Rheumatology, 20, 187–191. Prior, I. (1981). Epidemiology of rheumatic disorders in the Pacific with particular emphasis on hyperuricaemia and gout. Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism, 11(1), 213–229. Reale, B., Marchi, D., Silvana, M., & Borgonini, T. (1999). A case of diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH) from a medieval necropolis in southern Italy. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, 9, 369–373. Resnick, D. (Ed.). (1995). Diagnosis of bone and joint disorders. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders. Resnick, D., & Niwayama, G. (1995). Gouty arthritis. In D. Resnick (Ed.), Diagnosis of bone and joint disorders (Vol. 3, pp. 1511–1555). Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders.

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Richards, M., Hedges, R., Jacobi, R., Current, A., & Stringer, C. (2000a). FOCUS: Gough’s Cave and Sun Hole Cave human stable isotope values indicate a high animal protein diet in the British Upper Palaeolithic. Journal of Archaeological Science, 27(1), 1–3. Richards, M., Pettitt, P., Trinkaus, E., Smith, F., Paunovic, M., & Karavanic, I. (2000b). Neanderthal diet at Vindija and Neanderthal predation: The evidence from stable isotopes. Procedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America, 97(13), 7663–7666. Richards, M., Pettitt, P., Stiner, M., & Trinkaus, E. (2001). Stable isotope evidence for increasing dietary breadth in the European mid-Upper Paleolithic. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America, 98(11), 6528–6532. Richards, M., Shutling, R., & Hedges, R. (2003). Archaeology: Sharp shift in diet at onset of Neolithic. Nature, 425, 366. Richards, M., & Trinkaus, E. (2009). Isotopic evidence for the diets of European Neanderthals and early modern humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 106(38), 16034–16039. Richards, M. P., & Hedges, R. E. M. (1999). Stable isotope evidence for similarities in the types of marine foods used by Late Mesolithic humans at sites along the Atlantic Coast of Europe. Journal of Archaeological Science, 26, 717–722. Richards, M.  P., Jacobi, R., Cook, J., Pettitt, P.  B., & Stringer, C.  B. (2005). Isotope evidence for the intensive use of marine foods by Late Upper Palaeolithic humans. Journal of Human Evolution, 49, 390–394. Richards, M.  P., Taylor, G., Steele, T., McPherron, S.  P., Soressi, M., Jaubert, J., et  al. (2008). Isotopic dietary analysis of a Neanderthal and associated fauna from the site of Jonzac (Charente-Maritime), France. Journal of Human Evolution, 55(1), 179–185. Roberts, C., & Cox, M. (2003). Health and disease in Britain from prehistory to the present day. Thrupp: Sutton Publishing Limited. Rogers, J. (2000). The palaeopathology of joint disease. In M. Cox & S. Mays (Eds.), Human osteology in archaeology and forensic science (pp. 163–182). London: Greenwich Medical Media. Rogers, J., & Waldron, T. (1995). A field guide to joint disease in archaeology. Chichester: Wiley. Rogers, J., & Waldron, T. (2001). DISH and the monastic way of life. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, 11, 357–365. Rogers, J., Waldron, T., Dieppe, P., & Watt, I. (1987). Arthropathies in palaeopathology: The basis of classification according to most probable cause. Journal of Archaeological Science, 14, 179–193. Rogers, J., Watt, I., & Waldron, T. (1981). Arthritis in Saxon mediaeval skeletons. British Medical Journal, 283, 1668–1670. Rose, B., & Prior, I. (1963). A survey of rheumatism in a rural New Zealand Maori community. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, 22(6), 410–415. Rothschild, B., & Heathcote, G. (1995). Characterization of Gout in a skeletal population sample: Presumptive diagnosis in a Micronesian population. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 98(4), 519–525. Ryberg, M., Sandberg, S., Mellberg, C., Stegle, O., Lindahl, B., Hauksson, J., et  al. (2013). A Palaeolithic-type diet causes strong tissue-specific effects on ectopic fat deposition in obese postmenopausal women. Journal of Internal Medicine, 274(1), 67–76. Semah, A.-M., Semah, F., Djubiantono, T., & Brasseur, B. (2010). Landscapes and Hominids’ environments: Changes between the Lower and the Early Middle Pleistocene in Java (Indonesia). Quaternary International, 223–224, 451–454. Sencan, H., Nacitarhan, V., Sencan, M., & Kaptanoglu, E. (2005). The prevalence of diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis in patients with diabetes mellitus. Rheumatology International, 25(7), 518–521. Silman, A., & Hochberg, M. (2001). Epidemiology of rheumatic diseases. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Simmonds, H., McBride, M., Hatfield, P., Graham, R., McCaskey, J., & Jackson, M. (1994). Polynesian women are also at risk for hyperuricaemia and gout because of genetic defect in renal urate handling. British Journal of Rheumatology, 33, 932–937.


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Simmons, D., & Thompson, C. (2004). Prevalence of the metabolic syndrome among adult New Zealanders of Polynesian and European descent. Diabetes Care, 27(12), 3002–3004. Skoglund, P., Posth, C., Sirak, K., Spriggs, M., Valentin, F., Bedford, S., et al. (2016). Genomic insights into the peopling of the Southwest Pacific. Nature, 538, 510–513. Spriggs, M. (1997). The island Melanesians: The peoples of South-East Asia and the Pacific. Cornwall: Blackwell. Tanner, C., Boocock, J., Stahl, E., Dobbyn, A., Mandal, A., Cadzow, M., et al. (2017). Population-­ specific resequencing associates the ATP-binding cassette subfamily C member 4 gene with gout in New Zealand Maori and Pacific Men. Arthritis and Rheumatology, 69(7), 1461–1469. Tromp, M., Dudgeon, J., Buckley, H., & Matisoo-Smith, E. (2016). Dental calculus and plant diet in Oceania. In M. Oxenham & H. Buckley (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of bioarchaeology in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands (pp. 599–622). London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis. Turner, B., & Thompson, A. (2014). Beyond the Paleolithic prescription: Incorporating diversity and flexibility in the study of human evolution. Nutrition Reviews, 71(8), 501–510. Waldron, T. (1994). Counting the dead: The epidemiology of skeletal populations. Surrey: Wiley. Waldron, T. (2007). Palaeoepidemiology: The measure of disease in the human past. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, Inc. Walter, R., Smith, I., & Jacomb, C. (2006). Sedentism, subsistence and socio-political organization in prehistoric New Zealand. World Archaeology, 38(2), 274–290. Warinner, C., Rodrigues, J. F., Vyas, R., Trachsel, C., Shved, N., Grossmann, J., et al. (2014). Pathogens and host immunity in the ancient human oral cavity. Nature Genetics, 46(4), 336–344. Warinner, C., Speller, C., & Collins, M. (2015). A new era in palaeomicrobiology: Prospects for ancient dental calculus as a long-term record of the human oral microbiome. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, 370, 20130376. Wei, C.-Y., Sun, C.  C., Wei, J.  C., Tai, H.  C., Sun, C.  A., & Chung, C.  F. (2015). Association between hyperuricemia and metabolic syndrome: An epidemiological study of a labor force population in Taiwan. BioMed Research International, 2015, 1–7. Whincup, P., Kaye, S., Owen, C., Huxley, R., Cook, D., Anazawa, S., et al. (2009). Birthweight and risk of Type 2 diabetes: A quantitative systematic review of published evidence. JAMA, 300, 2886–2897. Wilson, P. W. F., D’Agostino, R. B., Parise, H., Sullivan, L., & Meigs, J. B. (2005). Metabolic syndrome as a precursor of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Circulation, 112, 3066–3072. WHO. (2000). Obesity: Preventing and managing the global epidemic. Geneva: WHO. Winnard, D., Wright, C., Taylor, W., Jackson, G., Te Karu, L., Gow, P., et al. (2012). National prevalence of gout derived from administrative health data in Aotearoa New Zealand. Rheumatology, 51, 901–909.

Chapter 8

Ancient Migrations: Biodistance, Genetics, and the Persistence of Typological Thinking Christopher M. Stojanowski

Introduction Social media is awash with the latest discoveries about the human past. Headlines read: “DNA of ancient skeleton linked to modern indigenous peoples”,1 “Ancient DNA suggests the first Americans sidestepped the glaciers”,2 and “Ancient DNA reveals secrets of human history”.3 These headlines all come from respected outlets with a connection to the academic community (Smithsonian, Science, and Nature, respectively). However, news media outlets with a more popular audience have also become interested in the stories and histories being revealed about our ancestors through modern and ancient DNA and new toolkits, which include a heavy bioinformatics component. As expected, these headlines are a bit more sensational: “Are you tall? Then thank your ancient cousins: Neanderthal DNA still helps dictate your HEIGHT and whether you suffer from lupus and schizophrenia”4 reads a Daily Mail headline about Neanderthal admixture. Another reads: “The ‘founding father’ of Europe: DNA reveals all Europeans are related to a group that lived around 35,000 years ago”.5 Yet another, seemingly contradictory, headline reads: “Europeans drawn from three ancient ‘tribes’”.6 2 3 4 5 6 1

C. M. Stojanowski (*) School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA e-mail: [email protected] © Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019 J. E. Buikstra (ed.), Bioarchaeologists Speak Out, Bioarchaeology and Social Theory,



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Communications technology has evolved in lockstep with advances in DNA recovery and analysis over the last two decades, perhaps giving the impression that studies of past population movements are a recent development. However, interest in “ancient migrations” has a deep history in western science, beginning with analyses of the skull using what are now referred to as biological distance methods. Biological distance analysis, or biodistance, uses phenotypic data recorded from the skeleton to make inferences about evolutionary processes in the past (Buikstra et al. 1990; Larsen 2015; Pietrusewsky 2013). As such, it shares a focus with much of the anthropological genetics literature, but is much older. In fact, biodistance is older than anthropology itself as cranial anatomy played a prominent role in the “race science” that began with Blumenbach in the eighteenth century (Blumenbach 1795) and continued relatively unchanged (except for statistical refinements) through the first half of the twentieth century (Armelagos et al. 1982; Brace 1982; Caspari 2003). Although biodistance has undergone repurposing within modern bioarcheology (Buikstra 1977, 1980; Buikstra et al. 1990; Larsen 2015), it is fair to say that biodistance has never undergone “rebranding”. The field cannot seem to shake the patina of the cranial typologists who used the skull as a vehicle for promoting overt or only thinly veiled racist ideology (Keel 2013; Keita and Kittles 1997; Marks 1995; Odom 1967). Despite its historical primacy, biodistance has always been largely absent from high-profile journals and news aggregators (the Manica et al. (2007) Nature paper is an exception) or at the very best viewed with an asterisk (*pending confirmation with DNA). However, this is not for lack of public interest in what biodistance has to say. News stories about the latest discovery reported by one of a handful of world class genetics labs7 are popular fodder in the space of “ancient migrations” research. The website Science News named “ancient human migration” as one of the top science stories of 2016.8 The goal of the ancient migrations literature is to reconstruct the (biological) history of our species, which is a time-honored pursuit in anthropology (Henn et al. 2012; Sommer 2015). This focus on history also engenders much controversy and debate in the field. Baseline assumptions are questioned (Fujimora et  al. 2014), methods and sampling strategies are parsed (Evanno et al. 2005; Frantz et al. 2009; Kalinowski 2011; Porras-Hurtado et al. 2013; Puechmaille 2016; Rosenberg et al. 2005; Schwartz and McKelvey 2009; Serre and Pääbo 2004), and controversy inevitably emerges because biological history invariably leads to discussions about race (Bolnick 2008; Hunley et al. 2009; Long et al. 2009; Raff 2014; Shiao et al. 2012; Templeton 2013). Some of the most visible, recent aDNA publications derive from outside anthropology departments. Because of this, limited attention is paid to previous work, which includes past typological analyses that had the same basic goals, assumptions, and (surprisingly) sometimes the same idiosyncratic results. Ignoring  Although there are dozens of ancient DNA labs in the world many of the recent high-profile papers come from only a few. See for a recent listing. Pickrell and Reich (2014, p. 16) offer an explanation for why this is the case. 8 7

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this history of research has resulted in high-profile studies, with intense media coverage, which are framed in typological language (see Bolnick 2008; Fujimora et al. 2014; Fullwiley 2008; Weiss and Fullerton 2005; Weiss and Lambert 2010, 2011, 2014; Weiss and Long 2009). When combined with the “bottom-line aura that DNA carries” (Weiss and Long 2009, p. 709), debates about the existence of human races have reignited a flurry of ontological and epistemological considerations (Hochman 2014; Kaplan and Winther 2013, 2014; Kopec 2014; Lemeire 2016; Ludwig 2015; Pigliucci 2013; Pigliucci and Kaplan 2003; Richman 2006–2007; Root 2000; Sesardic 2013; Spencer 2014, 2015, 2016; Sundstrom 2002a, b; Taylor 2000) and provided fodder for White supremacist groups to “armchair” the inferiority of other races but now “with science”.9 This is unacceptable, and it is time for bioarcheologists, those who study ancient migrations with nuance and context, to speak out. This chapter is my attempt to do so. I have one goal—to draw a direct parallel between a classic typological craniometric case study (Hooton’s The Indians of Pecos Pueblo) and recent genetic publications using structure analyses and ancient DNA. The focus here is not on being correct or incorrect, nor is it to argue about analytical details or to champion biodistance as an underappreciated source of information on the human past. Rather, I focus on the language used to describe patterns of genetic variation and prehistoric migrations, a language that reflects a persisting and troubling view of human prehistory as a story of far-flung migrations, sweeping conquests, and heroic reemergences. In so doing, I echo the poignant critique of Armelagos and Van Gerven (2003) about the primacy of methodology at the expense of asking different types of questions with our data.

What Is Typological Thinking? The deeply troubled history of biodistance as a typological “skull science” has left an indelible negative patina on the field. Armelagos and Van Gerven (2003) provided one of the more visible critiques in their 2003 review article published in the American Anthropologist. I have previously argued that they overstate their case against biodistance (Stojanowski and Buikstra 2005), and I continue to think they did so. A variety of new problem orientations and novel questions have emerged through biodistance analysis as part of the rise of bioarcheology in the 1970s. These  I provide some examples here but refuse to cite the web pages because I do not want to drive traffic to these sites, and I do not want to become the target of any backlash. Such is the nature of things in 2017. A quick Google search provides verification for some of the opinions that follow. Evidence of Neanderthal admixture in European, Asian, but not African populations is taken as evidence for White and Asian intellectual superiority over Blacks; Neanderthals had larger brains than humans. Michael Rockefeller may or may not have been eaten in New Guinea, but if he was it was because the indigenous Papuans are the most primitive people alive today, and they have the highest frequency of Denisovan genes (primitives, savages!). 9


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problem orientations are vastly different in tone and scope from the typological analyses that defined the early twentieth century (see Buikstra et al. 1990; Larsen 2015; Stojanowski and Schillaci 2006). This is not to say that typological thinking has completely disappeared from the biodistance literature. Papers discussing the migrations and mixings of “long heads” and “round heads” can still be found (although mostly restricted to non-Western venues). I consider these historical anachronisms, and little more. However, “typology-light” thinking does persist in the field, especially in dental morphology where papers that use single “ancestry-­ informative” phenotypic traits (such as incisor shoveling) are commonplace. However, these approaches do not really give the full sense of what typological thinking entails. For that, we turn to Earnest Hooton. Earnest Hooton’s career was varied and complex, as is his reputation (Beck 2006; Birdsell 1987; Cook 2006; Giles 2010, 2012a, b; Howells 1992; Marks 1995; Ubelaker 1982). His early career (Garn and Giles 1995; Rafter 2004) focused on his “methods of racial analysis” (Hooton 1925, 1926) most fully developed in his monograph The Indians of Pecos Pueblo (Hooton 1930). Both praised and criticized, I argue that the book has tremendous value in the historical perspective it provides (Beck 2006; Cook 2006) and should be standard reading for scholars of human migration and prehistory. Because Hooton did not edit his results fully, the reader witnesses the process of typological classification develop and unfold. As such, the work provides a valuable window into a typological mindset, which was both a worldview based on essentialism and a research method for reconstructing human prehistory. Hooton’s typological approach was presented in Hooton (1926) and has been discussed by recent authors (Beck 2006; Birdsell 1987; Cook 2006; Howells 1992). These authors noted the difference between Hooton’s perspective and that of the European typologists whose focus on “whole populations as types” (Howells 1992, p. 6) differed from Hooton’s emphasis on “dynamics, with looking at variation within populations” (ibid), and his “conviction that the secret of racial classification was to be uncovered in the individual” (Birdsell 1987, p. 4). As noted by Marks, this was a major break from contemporaries, “By focusing attention at the level of the individual, rather than the population, Hooton drew attention to polymorphism [emphasis in original], the biological variation that exists within populations” (Marks 1995, p. 101). Because Hooton is often misunderstood and criticized for things he actually did not say, it is important to let his own writing speak for itself.

The Indians of Pecos Pueblo Reconsidered The Indians of Pecos Pueblo presents 391 pages of text and 274 tables for an analysis of a single site. Beck (2006) provides a readable summary of the book’s contents, but for our purposes, a more focused discussion is warranted. Hooton’s central goal was to identify the underlying cause of skeletal variation in the Pecos series.

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After failing at his attempt to correlate biological and material culture variation throughout the archaeological sequence of the site (population replacement rejected), Hooton adopted a synchronic, racial approach to explain craniometric variation in the Pecos population, and in so doing sought to reconstruct the original racial composition of the founding population of the site. This craniological method, presented in abbreviated form in Hooton (1926), was then outlined through the remainder of the book, with a summary as follows: I selected all of the fairly well-preserved male crania and divided them into groups according to their mutual resemblances as judged by visual observation. After some days of sorting there emerged eight subgroups of crania.... The next step was to test the metric variability of these morphological subgroups. This was done by calculating the means and other constants of the cranial measurements and indices of each subgroup and comparing the percentage of significant divergences of these means from means of a random sample of the total series identical in size with each subgroup.... In order to convince myself and my readers of the actual validity and integrity of these morphological types, I made composite photographs of ten crania of each type. (Hooton 1930, p. 347)

Hooton’s attempt to prove to the reader that his racial categories were real using composite photographs (a technique attributed to Galton (1878) by Cook (2006) and Rafter (2004), but also used by Thomson (1905))10 is telling of the mental structure of essentialist thinking. To construct composites Hooton selected ten individuals from each type,11 photographed each skull, and exposed each photograph on the same plate resulting in superimposed type-specific composites as well as various combinations of type composites. According to Hooton, proof of validity of each type is represented by the fact that, “… each type presents definite features and outlines and is not blurred and vague as are the composites of the composites” (Hooton 1930, p. 228). In other words, when individuals of the same type are superimposed, the essence of that type would “… manifest composite unity” (Hooton 1930, p. 227) because of the visual stacking effect of the underlying cranial structures. Minor differences between individuals of a single type, where these minor differences represent the input of historical fusions and past admixture, are overwhelmed in the image by the underlying essence of the individual. Adams et  al. (1978, p.  514) describe this as the “atavistic reappearance of their [each skull’s] constituent elements”. The relationship between race and the individual is somewhat ephemeral, as such, and Hooton himself noted this: “One must conceive of race not as the combination of features which gives to each person his individual appearance, but rather as a vague physical background, usually more or less obscured or overlaid by individual variations in single subjects, and realized best in a composite picture” (emphasis added) (Hooton 1926, p. 79). Once the types were verified, Hooton’s final task was to trace the affinity of each to other groups outside of the southwestern USA. This is perhaps the most  For information on Galton’s publishing history with composite portraiture, see composite.htm. 11  Interestingly the Basket Maker type was only represented by six skulls, an exceedingly small sample size. 10


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misunderstood part of the analysis, an unfortunate side effect of his descriptive and poorly chosen names for his cranial types (Pseudo-Australoid, PseudoNegroid, Basket Maker, Plains Indian, Long-face European, Pseudo-Alpine, Large Hybrid, and Residual). Contra Armelagos and Van Gerven (2003), he specifically denied direct migrations from the Old World as the source of these individual types at Pecos. Rather, cranial variation was modeled as a function of the racial composition of the founding group and the chance assortment of essences. Specific essences segregate out (“Mendelize”) in certain individuals leading to observed variation in cranial form, but all of the variation he observed was present in the original founding population(s) (of Pecos and the New World). For example, commenting on the affinity of the “Pseudo-Negroid” type (for which Hooton has been criticized), he offers: I do not for a moment suppose that any … Negroes or Negroids ever migrated to America in pre-Columbian times (emphasis added). But I do think that earlier invaders who worked their way up to Northeast Asia, across the Bering Straits and down the New World carried with them some minor infusion of Negroid blood which had trickled in from the tropical parts of the Old World. (Hooton 1930, p. 356)

Is this so different from an out-of-Africa with serial bottlenecking inference, current canon in the field (Ramachandran et al. 2005; but see Pickrell and Reich 2014)? Commenting further on the affinities of the “non-Mongoloid” and in his mind most primitive types at Pecos (Basket Maker, “Pseudo-Negroid,” and “Pseudo-­ Australoid”), Hooton summarizes: These three early dolichocephalic types … probably together constituted the earliest American population. I cannot over-emphasize my conviction that they do not represent separate migrations of different races but rather a general mélange of strains fused together in the early invaders before their departure from the Asiatic continent. Their identification in the New World as separate and distinct craniometric and morphological types is due to the segregation of features in occasional individuals (emphasis added). (Hooton 1930, p. 357)

In summary, the racial typology of Hooton is a methodology to explain human variation in terms of far-flung cranial similarities at the individual level. It is based in essentialism and the goal of diagnosing the pure type of individual specimens, which combine to uncover population history at a broad scale. Migration is relevant, but he in no way conceived of “pseudo-Negroid’ types making their way from northwest Africa, across the Bering straits, and then down to Pecos” (Armelagos and Van Gerven 2003, p. 56). I believe this is a misreading of his work, and a reading at odds with earlier critiques of migrationism (Adams et al. 1978). But, what is important here is what Hooton is actually inferring about New World prehistory and the language that he is using to describe these historical processes. In the next section, I argue that Hooton’s inferences are not at odds with the current genetic analyses of New World variation and that typological mental constructs are alive and well in the ancient migrations and genetic admixture literatures.

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The Genomics Revolution (That Wasn’t?) As an outsider looking in, there are two different measures of impact for anthropological genetics. The first is the citation of this work by nonspecialists. The second is the media coverage of research findings. In this sense, two developments are most significant: (1) the publication of a paper by Rosenberg et al. (2002) that inferred individual ancestry and global patterns of genetic diversity using structure analyses12 and (2) recent advances in the extraction and interpretation of ancient DNA (Haber et al. 2016; Hofreiter et al. 2015; Morozova et al. 2016; Slatkin and Racimo 2016), including the inference of spatially patterned archaic introgression into modern humans (reviewed in Racimo et al. 2015). These are robust literatures, and it is not my intent to rehash their entirety. My intent here is to show that the underlying assumptions of some high-profile publications continue to view human evolution and variation within the same typological tradition as Hooton. I am not the first to point this out (El-Haj 2007; Bolnick 2008; Fujimora et al. 2014; Fullwiley 2008; Keita and Kittles 1997; Marks 2013; Terrell and Stewart 1996; Weiss and Fullerton 2005; Weiss and Lambert 2010, 2011, 2014; Weiss and Long 2009), but I do so here not as a geneticist or as a philosopher but as a bioarcheologist whose work is most closely aligned with the typologists by virtue of the data I use. Because of this, I am vigilant of falling back into a typological approach, but have witnessed eerily familiar framing and phrasing in recent discussions of human prehistory.

Structure and Race The Rosenberg et al. paper has been heavily cited by philosophers and social scientists (Glasgow 2003; Hochman 2014; Kaplan and Winther 2013, 2014; Kopec 2014; Lemeire 2016; Ludwig 2015; Pigliucci 2013; Pigliucci and Kaplan 2003; Richman 2006–2007; Root 2000; Sesardic 2013; Spencer 2014, 2015, 2016; Sundstrom 2002a, b; Taylor 2000) and has reignited debates about the existence of human races (Bolnick 2008; Hunley et al. 2009; Long et al. 2009; Raff 2014; Shiao et al. 2012; Templeton 2013). With such scrutiny, it is no surprise that considerable methodological debate has also emerged (Evanno et al. 2005; Frantz et al. 2009; Kalinowski 2011; Porras-Hurtado et  al. 2013; Puechmaille 2016; Rosenberg et  al. 2005; Schwartz and McKelvey 2009; Serre and Pääbo 2004). What the Rosenberg et al. (2002) paper says depends on what you bring to the paper yourself (what Winther (2014) calls an “assumption archeology”). The details are simple enough. Using a Bayesian clustering algorithm, the authors used 1056 individuals from 52 populations genotyped for 377 autosomal microsatellite loci. They documented a high degree of within-population diversity, consistent with decades of prior estimates of  There are at least a dozen different programs that perform similar types of analyses (Morozova et al. 2016). 12


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FST, which suggest that the concept of race (subspecies) is a poor approximation for human variation (Brown and Armelagos 2001; Lewontin 1972; Relethford 2009). Although the value of FST in the race debate has been questioned (Edwards 2003; Hochman 2013; Holsinger and Weir 2009; Kaplan and Winther 2013; Long and Kittles 2003; Maglo et  al. 2016; Templeton 2013), there is nothing controversial about this result. The controversy focuses on the following: The authors identified six major clusters of humans, five of which corresponded with continental geography, and were able to allocate individuals to clusters without using a priori labels. Individuals were assigned an admixture percentage based on the frequency of specific markers within comparative populations. Despite follow-ups and clarifications (Rosenberg 2011; Rosenberg et al. 2005), race was reinvented and in some cases redefined (Andreasen 1998, 2000, 2004; Hardimon 2012; Kopec 2014; Millstein 2015; Pigliucci and Kaplan 2003). Amidst all of the ensuing debates that the Rosenberg et al. papered fostered, a small minority emphasized the inherent typological framework evident in this approach. Weiss and co-authors have been most persistent in pursuing this argument (Weiss and Fullerton 2005; Weiss and Lambert 2010, 2011, 2014; Weiss and Long 2009); however, others have also noted similarities with the (once thought) easily discarded typological past (Abu El-Haj 2007; Bolnick 2008; Fujimora et al. 2014; Fullwiley 2008; Marks 2013). One obvious area of similarity is that structure analyses have refocused attention on the individual as a unit subjected to clustering techniques, thus representing a shift away from the classical focus on patterns of variation at the population level (Edwards 2003)—much like Hooton did in the early twentieth century (Marks 1995, p. 101). Structure takes genetic data and uses those data to define groups based on allele frequencies and Hardy–Weinberg proportions (as one option), allocates individuals to those groups based on the same criteria for group definition, and then calculates an admixture percentage for each individual. It is important to note that the groups that emerge from the data are left vague in a historical sense (Where and when did the ancestral groups presumably live?) and are considered platonic because all individuals are contemporaneous and therefore cannot be in ancestor–descendant relationships (Weiss and Long 2009). Ancestry is a primordial essence that can be read in the individual as a majority category. Recent events only partly overlay the essential character of the individual, but these events are a minor component of ancestry that the methodology can disentangle within a “majority rule” framework. Assuming that the structure groups represent ancestral groups or evolutionary units (when making the leap from description or classification to explanation or cause) means that gene frequencies did not change through time and that people basically have lived in the same place for most of prehistory—a critique also applied to modern genetic data (Hofreiter et al. 2015; Pickrell and Reich 2014). In other words, interpreting structure analyses within a racial perspective puts one in the position of making statements about evolutionary history while assuming that no evolution has actually occurred. Hooton used skulls, sorted the skulls to define groups, assigned individual skulls membership in each group, and then discussed possible admixture on a case-by-­ case basis. The groups were named morphological types and reflected a vague

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notion of ancestral source populations. It is assumed that these populations were morphologically pure and existed in a mythical prehistoric past, which is not only unspecified but there is no interest in specification; they are assumed to have existed based on the patterns in the data set under study. In aggregate, the individual ancestries combine to reflect a population-level inference about origins and history. This is really what Hooton is saying—the key to understanding history is within the individual. Each individual presents a layering of ancestries, and if you look close enough and focus on the differences, then you can identify the essence that records a history that is ever receding into the evolutionary past. Structure uses DNA to accomplish the same goal, with largely the same result—mostly X with a bit of Y. It does so with better data and methods, but that does not mean the baseline mythology is any different. Both structure analyses and cranial typology focus on differences not similarities (Weiss and Lambert 2010, p.  97) and create ancestral population sources that are idealized and maximized to find these differences based on a preconceived (Eurocentric) notion of the way the world was. These populations have been referred to as “abstractions” (Weiss and Long 2009, p. 705), “statistical constructs” (Weiss and Long 2009, p.  705), “as-if fictions” (Weiss and Lambert 2010, p.  95), and based on an “assumed landscape” (Weiss and Lambert 2011, p. 340). That such populations existed is taken for granted, as is the notion that these populations were at one point pure and unadmixed, although we do not know when. The philosophical ramifications of defining populations with respect to structure and race was discussed by Gannett (2003) from a theoretical perspective. But, this is a rather loose literature that is hard to encapsulate because it speaks to the core issue of human uniqueness and tendency. For example, the bounded nature of human social groups is debated within the colonialist literature with respect to ethnolinguistic tribes in which the European worldview is seen as driven to create groups or harden existing divisions for political ends (Braun and Hammonds 2008; Hill 1996; MacEachern 2000; Pargeter et al. 2016; Weiss and Long 2009; Whitten Jr 2007). This is reminiscent of John Moore’s (1994a, b, 2001) critique of human phylogenetics and Terrell’s critique of the myth of the primitive isolate (Terrell 2001a, b; Terrell and Stewart 1996). Both argued for the same basic facts of humanity—networked connectedness—and the importance of ethnogenesis as an enduring human process (Hill 1996; Hu 2013; Weik 2014). Most of this discussion occurs within the context of post-Columbian tribal phenomenon; however, this is not necessarily a recent, core periphery, state-level construction of limited relevance to deep time genetic perspectives. For example, Hill et  al. (2011) documented the mechanisms of exogamy in a broad sample of contemporary hunter-gatherers, suggesting that bands are not simple kin groups but broadly integrated through cooperation and reciprocity networks (see also Apicella et  al. 2012). Whether early Holocene hunter-gatherers lived with similar social group compositions has not been determined (modern foragers are not fossils), but bioarcheology alone can make such a contribution. High mobility and exogamy is consistent with estimated coalescent times for all living humans on the order of only several thousand years (Fujimora et al. 2014; Rohde et al. 2004) with the timescale of human migration easily accomplished by relatively low expectations of about 1 km per year, on average


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(Hofreiter et al. 2015, p. 289). The patterns of variation that we observe today may reflect only very recent events in the human past (Pickrell and Reich 2014), making deep time inferences based on modern populations problematic. Together, these disparate and loosely connected threads reveal a complex, reticulating, and braided history. It is not a history of population-level actors that grow, divide, and expand— repeat (Weiss and Lambert 2014). Or is it? This is a question where bioarcheological data and biodistance approaches can make an impact with direct access to nested sets of ancestors and descendants in the archeological record. We are able to access a relative abundance of samples from the late Pleistocene and early Holocene from around the world, prior to the movements of the mid-Holocene climatic optimum and including such low DNA coverage places as Africa, which is absolutely a crucial missing piece of the “ancient migrations” literature. But, what is missing from the genetics discussion is self-reflection on the most basic human fact—do human societies really work in a cladistic and mechanistic fashion? Friendship, prosociality, warfare, and in-group/out-group dynamics are all relevant. This is the ultimate anthropological question—Are humans an integrated or xenophobic species?13 It is important to note that this discussion (or critique) is not about the samples, the sampling strategy, gaps in the geographic coverage, the specific methods used and its assumptions, or the ontology and metaphysics of race as a subspecies, clade, reproductively isolated, and/or phenotypically distinct grouping. In drawing a comparison with Hooton’s (1930) work, my point is not to elevate Hooton as someone who was right all along or decry the false inferences of the genetics literature. Most agree that the statistics are not flawed and the authors of these seminal papers were justified in their conclusions, despite the tremendous amount of post hoc debate and analysis (Winther et al. 2015; Weiss and Long 2009). My purpose is to show that the inferences are not that different—the same question, same result, but better data. This was the essence of the Armelagos and Van Gerven (2003) critique, channeling Marks (1996) and others who noted the static historical focus of anthropology. Lest the reader think all of this hand-wringing is over a single publication, the Rosenberg et al. (2002) paper has been cited 2278 times as of this writing; the structure analysis that formed the core of the methodology (Pritchard et  al. 2000)— 18,589! Nevertheless, as visible as structure analyses are within academia, the debate has largely been overlooked by the science news media (the online debates between Raff, Fuentes, Marks, and Wade are a visible exception—Raff 201414).  This sentence was written on January 27, 2017.  Given the poor staying power of online media, I am hesitant to post the links but to give credit to these authors: http://www.huffingtonpost. com/nicholas-wade/in-defense-of-a-troublesome-inheritance_b_5413333.html b_5344248.html?utm_hp_ref=tw&utm_content=bufferfad4c&utm_medium=social&utm_

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That these discussions have ended up drifting into the “metaphysical pluralist ontology of race” (Sundstrom 2002b, p. 101) and debates about the nature/reality/salience of individuals, populations, and species (Braun and Hammonds 2008; Gannett 2003; Millstein 2015; Spencer 2016; Winther et  al. 2015) may help keep media interest at bay. People may also be race weary. The same is not the case for ancient DNA research, however. Here, I suspect that it is the technology angle that drives the media narrative—people like to read about technological advances in human capacity. But, there is more to it than that. Casual perusal of the most recent literature and its news coverage reveals a striking concern with racial phenotype, an assumption of pure ancestral stocks, and an emphasis on admixture as a historical process. The language is easy to understand, and the inferences are easily fit into preconceived notions of the way the world works, now and always.

Of Blued-Eyed, Swarthy Hunters The Krings et al. (1997) paper on Neanderthal DNA was published when I was in graduate school. It made an impact then and really began the search for DNA from ancient human populations and extinct hominin taxa. In the last 5 years, the pace of advances has been staggering (Hofreiter et al. 2015; Morozova et al. 2016; Slatkin and Racimo 2016). We now have DNA from multiple Neanderthals and Denisovans and scores of ancient sites. DNA was recovered from five New World Paleo-­ Americans and from multiple sites from Mesolithic and Neolithic Europe. Ancient DNA has gone a long way toward resolving lingering issues about the source and number of migrations into the New World (reviewed in Bolnick et al. 2016; Pickrell and Reich 2014). In Europe, the density of ancient sample coverage has allowed researchers to compare Mesolithic and Neolithic datasets to inform the processes of Holocene subsistence and societal transformation (reviewed in Slatkin and Racimo 2016). Problems with typology abound in this literature, but are not ubiquitous. The media attention has not helped matters. A series of recent papers on ancient European samples (Haak et  al. 2015; Lazaridis et al. 2014; Olalde et al. 2014; Posth et al. 2016; Skoglund et al. 2012) has certainly captured the media’s attention. BBC News published the headline “Europeans drawn from three ancient ‘tribes’” that began with the following: “Blue-­ eyed, swarthy hunters mingled with brown-eyed, pale skinned farmers as the latter swept into Europe from the Near East. But another, mysterious population with Siberian affinities also contributed to the genetic landscape of the continent.”15 The tribes, in this case, derived from the analysis of nine ancient Europeans as reported by Lazaridis et al. (2014, p. 409). Although the authors of the original study do not use the word “tribe” in their paper, they do define “three highly differentiated populations”: ANE—ancient North Eurasian, SHG—Scandinavian hunter-gatherer, and EEF—early European farmer. Eye color is described in these ancient samples, 15


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although it is unclear why. The mention of skin and eye color in these papers is an interesting addition. Olalde et al. (2014) provide a research justification (the evolution of skin color variation), but the headlines are easily consumed in left and right blogs and message boards for musings about race. I understand the temptation to convey such human interest elements of your work, but one does wonder if more harm than good will come of it given the deep history of using external phenotypes such as eye, hair, and skin color in race science. Such features are still fully integrated into online discussions of human variation as if they really matter, now with scientific imprimatur. However, it is not just offhand mentions of pigmentation that reflect a typological approach. The “three tribes” listed above did not last very long. A year later, Haak et al. (2015) reported on 69 ancient European samples that helped define the source of the entry of Indo-European languages into Europe. Here, archaeological cultures are reified (Yamnaya, Corded Ware), the EEF population is split (I think) into two temporal samples (Middle Neolithic and Early Neolithic), and a Western European hunter-gatherer (WHG) and Eastern European hunter-gatherer (EHG) are defined in addition to the SHG and ANE populations. The interactions through time and space are described in familiar typological language—“descended from a common stock” (Haak et al. 2015, p. 208) or “descended from a mixture of …” (Haak et al. 2015, p. 209). The “assumed ancestral landscapes” of structure analysis are taken a step further and used as true ancestral sources for the mixing and movements, which combined to explain modern patterns of genetic variation. Consider the conclusion, shared in its entirety for full effect: We can now add three new pieces to the puzzle of how ANE [Ancient North Eurasian] ancestry was transmitted to Europe: first by the EHG [eastern European hunter-gatherer], then the Yamnaya formed by mixture between EHG and a Near Eastern related population, and then the Corded Ware who were formed by a mixture of the Yamnaya with the Middle Neolithic Europeans … .We estimate that the ancestry of the Corded Ware was 79% Yamnaya-like, 4% WHG, and 17% Early Neolithic … .Our data further show that both migrations were followed by resurgences of the previous inhabitants: first, during the Middle Neolithic, when hunter-gatherer ancestry rose again after its Early Neolithic decline, and then between the Late Neolithic and the present, when farmer and hunter-gatherer ancestry rose after its Late Neolithic decline. (Haak et al. 2015, p. 210)

Figure 2 from the Haak et al. paper plots all of the ancient and modern samples in principal components space. For all of the power of genetic data, the analysis and presentation are very familiar to practitioners of biodistance. Individuals are plotted in two dimensions. Multivariate pattern recognition defines patterns of affinity overlaid with labels including “dilution”, “arrival”, and “replaced” with arrows conveniently defining direction and time. Admixture analyses, with their familiar color-coded bars, round out the presentation. If a craniometries paper was put forth with similar framing, it would be roundly rejected without review; it would not be published in the top science journal in the world! The way we talk about our work matters. In this case, language and visualizations do the work of typology and reaffirm a specific view of the human past as one of isolation, grand migrations, mixings, reemergences, and extinctions. Templeton

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commented on the specific use of trees to depict human evolutionary relationships and “archaic” admixture targets and how often such images are picked up by the press. He considered these simplifications (and everyone involved knows that these models really are proxy simplifications of historical realities) socially irresponsible because they, “often attract much attention in the popular media, and it is the pictures and figures from these papers that are primarily transmitted to the general public and not nuanced text” (Templeton 2013, p.  13). Indeed, our “blue-eyed, swarthy hunter” has a face that has been reposted countless times across social media. To the delight of the far right, he is dark but not an African; he would pass for a Bordelais. As with the structure analyses discussed above, the point here is not that this work is necessarily wrong. Clearly, the resolution is better than the existing methodologies for morphological analysis, and this is unlikely to change in the future (see Roseman 2016). The issue is one of training and analytical complexity, as Pickrell and Reich (2014, p. 16) noted, “Ancient DNA laboratories, which traditionally have their strongest expertise in archaeology, physical anthropology, or biochemistry, often lack the bioinformatics expertise, data processing power and data storage solutions necessary to handle the millions or even billions of sequences that are generated by modern DNA studies …. At present, few laboratories have the experimental and computational expertise to address all of these challenges simultaneously. As a result, ancient DNA research has been dominated by a few vertically integrated and well-funded laboratories”. This point is best demonstrated by returning to Hooton, once again, and the issue of New World population origins. His conclusion, based on a typological analysis of skull form, was that there was an earlier migration with Australian-Melanesian-­ African affinities (but not exactly so) and a later migration with primarily Asian affinities. I will not belabor the fact that the Paleo-American theory of Neves and colleagues (Neves and Hubbe 2005; Neves et al. 2005) is quite similar to this interpretation, or the mysterious coincidence of Skoglund et al.’s (2015) declaration of two founding New World populations, one of which has clear affinities with Australian, Melanesian, and Andamanese populations. Again, this is not a “molecules vs. morphology” issue but one of framing. For example, consider how Hooton (1930, pp. 361–362) summarized his work: At a rather remote period … there straggled into the New World from Asia by way of the Bering Straits groups of dolichocephals in which were blended at least three strains [Mediterranean, Australians/Ainu, Negroid (not Negro)]. These people already racially mixed. At a somewhat later period there began to arrive in the New World groups [that] may have driven out and supplanted the early [groups], but often they seem to have interbred with them.

In a 2016 review article, Skoglund and Reich (2016, pp.  31–32) summarized genomic evidence for New World origins as follows, “These strands of evidence suggest a minimum three-part ancestry for the Beringian populations that came to populate the Americas. Two of these strands were fully braided together to form the main ancestral lineage of Native Americans …. the third, with an affinity to Australasians, was not.” I see little difference between these perspectives. However,


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both should be contrasted with Bolnick et al.’s (2016) review of the same literature. Coming from an anthropological background, the language and tone are completely different. There are no strands braiding together, and the language implies a nested set of relationships that do not proceed through time in a mechanistic and linear fashion. Given that the “vertically integrated and well-funded laboratories” are also the most successful at placing their research within the most visible science journals, these researchers would be well served to consider the history of the field at a deeper level. Anthropology does not own or invent genetics, but genetic data used in the service of history are part of the tradition of anthropology that began with “skull science” and continues to be reflected in the way ancient migrations are presented by some in the field, and most certainly by the press.

Conclusions Earnest Hooton’s craniological method is often criticized for its outmoded techniques, essentialist philosophy, and incorrect results. In this chapter, I argue that typology continues to pervade the “ancient migrations” literature, despite the aura that new technologies have brought to the discussion. No longer the purview of the morphologists, however, training, funding, and bioinformatics demands have created an environment in which anthropological training is not required to study the past. As a result, typological framing has reemerged in the language and constructs of how human prehistory is understood and imagined. This is a problem. At the end of 2016, we have seen that rational thought does not always prevail. Our research occurs within a sociopolitical context and is used as justification for racist positions of division and hierarchy. Speaking of populations as bounded, imagining a past of racial purity, and describing human prehistory in narrative terms only reinforces a facile view of a complex history.

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Giles, E. (2010). Principal figures in physical anthropology before and during World War II. In M. A. Little & K. A. R. Kennedy (Eds.), Histories of American physical anthropology in the twentieth century. Lanham: Lexington Books. Giles, E. (2012a). Two faces of Earnest A. Hooton. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 55, 105–113. Giles, E. (2012b). Earnest Albert Hooton (1887–1954). In J. E. Buikstra & C. A. Roberts (Eds.), The global history of paleopathology (pp. 170–173). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Glasgow, J. M. (2003). On the new biology of race. The Journal of Philosophy, 100, 456–474. Haak, W., Lazaridis, I., Patterson, N., Rohland, N., Mallick, S., Llamas, B., et al. (2015). Massive migration from the steppe was a source for Indo-European languages in Europe. Nature, 522, 207–211. Haber, M., Mezzavilla, M., Xue, Y., & Tyler-Smith, C. (2016). Ancient DNA and the rewriting of human history: Be sparing with Occam’s razor. Genome Biology, 17, 1. s13059-015-0866z Hardimon, M.  O. (2012). The idea of a scientific concept of race. Journal of Philosophical Research, 37, 249–282. Henn, B.  M., Cavalli-Sforza, L.  L., & Feldman, M.  W. (2012). The great human expansion. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109, 17758–17764. Hill, J. D. (1996). History, power and identity. Ethnogenesis in the Americas, 1492–1992. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press. Hill, K.  R., Walker, R.  S., Božičevič, M., Eder, J., Headland, T., Hewlett, B., et  al. (2011). Co-residence patterns in hunter-gatherer societies show unique human social structure. Science, 331, 1286–1289. Hochman, A. (2013). Against the new racial naturalism. The Journal of Philosophy, 110, 331–351. Hochman, A. (2014). Unnaturalised racial naturalism. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 46, 79–87. Hofreiter, M., Paijmans, J. L. A., Goodchild, H., Speller, C. F., Barlow, A., Fortes, G. G., et al. (2015). The future of ancient DNA: Technical advances and conceptual shifts. BioEssays, 37, 284–293. Holsinger, K. E., & Weir, B. S. (2009). Genetics in geographically structured populations: Defining, estimating and interpreting FST. Nature Reviews Genetics, 10, 639–650. Hooton, E.  A. (1925). The ancient inhabitants of the Canary Islands. Cambridge: Peabody Museum of Harvard University. Hooton, E. A. (1926). Methods of racial analysis. Science, 63, 75–81. Hooton, E. A. (1930). The Indians of Pecos Pueblo. New Haven: Yale University Press. Howells, W. W. (1992). Yesterday, today and tomorrow. Annual Review of Anthropology, 21, 1–17. Hu, D. (2013). Approaches to the archaeology of ethnogenesis: Past and emergent perspectives. Journal of Archaeological Research, 21, 371–402. Hunley, K. L., Healy, M. E., & Long, J. C. (2009). The global pattern of gene identity reveals a history of long-range migrations, bottlnecks, and local mate exchange: Implications for biological race. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 139, 35–46. Kalinowski, S. T. (2011). The computer program STRUCTURE does not reliably identify the main genetic clusters within species: Simulations and implications for human population structure. Heredity, 106, 625–632. Kaplan, J.  M., & Winther, R.  G. (2013). Prisoners of abstraction? The theory and measure of genetic variation, and the very concept of “race”. Biological Theory, 7, 401–412. Kaplan, J. M., & Winther, R. G. (2014). Realism, antirealism, and conventionalism about race. Philosophy of Science, 81, 1039–1052. Keel, T. D. (2013). Religion, polygenism and the early science of human origins. History of the Human Sciences, 26, 3–32. Keita, S. O. Y., & Kittles, R. A. (1997). The persistence of racial thinking and the myth of racial divergence. American Anthropologist, 99, 534–544. Kopec, M. (2014). Clines, clusters, and clades in the race debate. Philosophy of Science, 81, 1053–1065.

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Chapter 9

Opening Up the Family Tree: Promoting More Diverse and Inclusive Studies of Family, Kinship, and Relatedness in Bioarchaeology Kent M. Johnson

Introduction The USA is in the midst of a social, cultural, and political maelstrom. The current Republican administration has rapidly implemented a socially conservative agenda, and civil rights activists are worried this may portend the rolling back of civil rights that affect the LGBTQIA+ community, including same-sex marriage (Chappell 2017; Epstein et al. 2016). The increase in single-parent families, absent fathers, and gay marriage are cited as evidence of the breakdown of the family as an institution (e.g., Ambler 2016; Harari 2015; Keim 2017; Murray 2012; Tucker 2014). In the eyes of some contemporary moralists and political pundits, the solution to what ails our nation is a return to traditional values (i.e., “Make America Great Again”) symbolized in part by the nuclear family. Efforts to legally define marriage as the union of a man and a woman (e.g., DOMA) are, fundamentally, attempts to legislate idealized notions of family organization rooted in biologistic and heteronormative perspectives that have little basis in the reality of family composition and organization. Contemporary families are constituted in diverse ways. In the USA, the number of households not anchored by married heterosexual couples is increasing (Cohen 2015; Coontz 2016; DePaullo 2016). Census data indicate more households consist of multigenerational families; horizontal family households comprised of adult siblings, their spouses, and their children; single mothers and their children living with other single-parent families; and people who form parenting partnerships that do not involve marriage or romance (DePaullo 2016). These census data, along with ethnographic data from various societies, highlight the diversity and flexibility in human family organization and undermine the notion that the nuclear family represents a universal or essential family form (Astuti 2009; Bird-David 2017a, b; K. M. Johnson (*) Department of Sociology and Anthropology, State University of New York at Cortland, Cortland, NY, USA e-mail: [email protected] © Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019 J. E. Buikstra (ed.), Bioarchaeologists Speak Out, Bioarchaeology and Social Theory,



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Carsten 1995; Ember and Ember 1983; Leach 2009). Studies of family organization in historic contexts ranging from colonial North and South America (Coontz 2016; Mangan 2016) to ancient Greece and Rome (Martin 1996; Nathan 2000) suggest similar diversity also characterizes human family organization in the recent past. Family organization in the distant past and other contexts for which there are no historical data is less well understood. In these contexts, archaeological and bioarchaeological data on family, kinship, and relatedness can make important contributions to current social policy, politics, and legal debates. The study of family organization past and present offers key insights into what it means to be human as well as the different ways of being human. Family is a primary locus of learning, enculturation, and socialization, and studying families is critical to understanding how individuals and social groups differ in regard to a number of critical contemporary issues including individual and community health, socioeconomic status, educational success, and career advancement opportunities (Cohen 2015). From an evolutionary perspective, family and kinship are critical to understanding cooperation, altruism, exchange, intergroup conflict, economic inequality, and social and political hierarchy. The study of past physical bodies can provide evidence essential for understanding family organization and relatedness in the past as well as the present. Bioarchaeological research generates evidence of the experiences of past individuals and social groups in terms of dietary practices, mobility and migration, health, interpersonal violence, activities related to economic production, and community organization (e.g., Buikstra and Beck 2006; Larsen 2015; Martin et al. 2013). By exploring how family organization intersects with these other standard areas of bioarchaeological research, bioarchaeologists can create more nuanced narratives regarding the role of familial relations in the emergence of social complexity, hereditary leadership, and social inequality; family-based strategies for adapting to sociopolitical and environmental transformations; the influence of family-based social networks for the development and spread of information and technology; and the development of ritual and religious practices, including ancestor veneration and monotheism. The study of past physical bodies also provides evidence essential for understanding contemporary issues related to family composition and organization. Bioarchaeologists have the ability to situate current conceptions of kinship within a broad temporal and cross-cultural perspective, dispel the notion that there is a natural or essential human family form whose defense warrants legal protection, and contribute unique data to discussions of family organization within public arenas. While there have been some attempts to engage broader audiences, bioarchaeologists have yet to assume a visible role of “expert” on family matters. In this chapter, I suggest that bioarchaeologists should be conducting research on and speaking out about diversity in family organization and relatedness in the past. I begin with a brief overview of bioarchaeological kinship research, emphasizing recent developments within the field. I discuss major limitations of bioarchaeological kinship analysis and suggest that these contribute to the limited role that bioarchaeologists play in public discussions of family and kinship. I then consider several

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ways to increase the visibility of bioarchaeological family research. I propose a way to revitalize bioarchaeological kinship research using a broader, more inclusive approach to family that does not prioritize biological relatedness or heteronormative models of family organization, and I highlight the importance of effectively communicating our findings to broader audiences. Before proceeding, it is important to clearly define key terms I use repeatedly throughout this chapter: relatedness, kinship, and family.

Defining Family, Kinship, and Relatedness The wide array of meanings associated with the terms “family” and “kinship” by the general public and specialists alike contributes to confusion and conceptual imprecision in kinship and family research (Flandrin 1979; Holy 1996; Keesing 1975). The nature of relatedness and specifics of kinship and family organization are context specific, but the clear and consistent use of general terms helps facilitate comparative analyses where appropriate. In the following discussion, I define family, kinship, and relatedness in a manner that I find useful, although others surely would take issue with my usage (cf., Ensor 2013; Keesing 1975).1 Relatedness refers to the specific criteria used to differentiate relatives from nonrelatives within a group. The specific configuration of criteria can vary within and between societies and can include shared biogenetic substances (e.g., blood or genes), commensality, co-residence, adoption, and marriage, to provide just a few examples. Relatedness can be conceptualized broadly as biological (genetic or genealogical) or social (based on shared experiences and practices or legal contracts) or some combination of these (i.e., biosocial). Despite its title, I would argue that Marshall Sahlins’s (2013) book What Kinship Is—And Is Not is a discussion of relatedness, the culturally specific criteria that constitute family-based relationships, rather than a discussion of kinship, which I discuss next. Kinship refers to cultural system(s) used for organizing familial relationships at different scales, including relatives (family members) vs. nonrelatives, close vs. distant relatives, and relatives you can marry vs. relatives you cannot marry (see Bird-­ David 2017a, b; Bourdieu 1977; Leaf 2013; Lévi-Strauss 1969; Marks 2015; Read 2001, 2007, 2012; Schneider 1972; cf. Keesing 1975). In other words, human kinship is the culture-bound guidelines (normative and nonnormative) for identifying relatives in general, specific categories of relatives, as well as the expected set of behaviors and obligations accorded different relatives. If relatedness involves the practices or characteristics used to identify someone as your relative, then kinship

 The separation of family, kinship, and relatedness is primarily a heuristic distinction; the three are inherently interconnected and somewhat difficult to consider in isolation. For example, the factors for identifying relatives in general (i.e., relatedness) and the rules for identifying specific kin (i.e., kinship) strongly influence the composition of one’s family. 1


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provides the cultural logic for identifying the specific familial relationship you share with that person. I use “family” to refer to persons who consider themselves and act as though they are related.2 “Family” can refer to specific sets of relatives such as lineage members or, in a more general sense, to those we deem relatives, whether through kinship, marriage, adoption, household membership, and other criteria or qualities (see Baumann 1995). Rather than referring to any specific type of family organization such as nuclear, stem, or extended, I consider families to be “groups of related people, bound by connections that are biological, legal, or emotional” (Cohen 2015, p. 4).

Kinship Analysis in Bioarchaeology In bioarchaeology, kinship analysis refers to a specialized type of small-scale biological distance (or biodistance) analysis (Alt and Vach 1995; Stojanowski and Schillaci 2006). Biodistance analysis is the analysis of genetic relatedness among individuals or samples using either molecular or phenotypic data; it can range in scale from interindividual analyses to intercontinental population-based analyses (Buikstra et al. 1990). Bioarchaeological kinship analysis refers to the analysis of phenotypic (e.g., skeletal and dental discrete traits and metric values) and—less frequently—molecular data to identify individuals who share close biological relatedness in mortuary contexts (Alt and Vach 1998; Stojanowski and Schillaci 2006). The underlying assumption is that close genetic relatives are more similar in terms of DNA and phenotypic traits than are nonrelatives due to sharing alleles that are identical by descent because they were inherited from a recent common ancestor (Konigsberg 2000; Thompson 1986). Whether this assumption is warranted is another matter and is the subject of a number of recent validation studies whose findings are not altogether encouraging (Paul and Stojanowski 2015, 2017; Stojanowski and Hubbard 2017). There are two basic approaches to kinship analysis using different types of phenotypic data: (1) rare morphological traits or anomalous variants and (2) overall (i.e., multivariate) phenotypic similarity in size and/or shape (Alt and Vach 1995, 1998; Stojanowski and Hubbard 2017; Stojanowski and Schillaci 2006). The specific analytical techniques used in kinship analysis depend upon the type of data considered and the characteristics of the mortuary context from which the samples  “Family” is a broad term that has long encompassed a variety of definitions, including (1) persons related by blood or marriage (kin in a broad sense), (2) a lineage or house (i.e., those descended from the same stock or blood), or (3) all those living under the same roof including servants and other nonrelatives (Flandrin 1979). According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “family” has multiple origins deriving in part from the French word famile (also famille and famelie) and the Latin word familia. However, the term is not a direct cognate of the Latin term familia in meaning; instead, the Latin domus is closer in meaning to what we consider family, as it typically referred to all those living in the household (Martin 1996; Nathan 2000; Saller 1984). 2

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are drawn (see Alt and Vach 1995; Stojanowski and Schillaci 2006). These approaches are applied in three different types of mortuary contexts: (1) small grave contexts including caves, crypts, tumuli, and other small-scale mortuary contexts with multiple burials, (2) cemeteries with distinct burial areas, and (3) cemeteries without distinct burial areas (Alt and Vach 1995, 1998). Although kinship analysis is often performed at an intracemetery or intrasite scale, analyses can be performed using samples drawn from multiple cemeteries and sites within a regional framework (Johnson 2016). Bioarchaeological kinship analysis primarily has been a method-driven endeavor (Stojanowski and Schillaci 2006). Many studies focus on evaluating which types of data (molecular vs. phenotypic and nonmetric vs. metric), specific traits, and analytical methods are most effective at identifying genetic relatives within mortuary contexts (e.g., Alt et al. 1997; Alt and Vach 1995; Ricaut et al. 2010; Shimada et al. 2004; Shinoda et al. 1998). In addition to methodological concerns, kinship analysis is also used to investigate more archaeologically oriented questions concerning site formation and aspects of social organization (Alt and Vach 1995; Stojanowski and Schillaci 2006). Recently, attempts have been made to produce more theoretically oriented studies of kinship and relatedness and explore how family organization intersects with a variety of sociocultural issues including health disparities, long-­ distance exchange, and major socioeconomic transformations including the transition from hunting and foraging to economies based on sedentary agriculture (Alt et al. 2013, 2015; Gregoricka 2013; Johnson and Paul 2016; Paul et al. 2013; Pilloud and Larsen 2011; Prevedorou and Stojanowski 2017; Sciulli and Cook 2016; Stojanowski 2013). In summary, bioarchaeological kinship analysis is primarily focused on the identification of close genetic relatives within mortuary contexts, but more socially oriented studies are beginning to explore how the study of family organization can generate insights into many other aspects of social life and individuals’ lived experiences in the past. These include comparing health indicators within and between families, exploring skeletal and archaeological markers of socioeconomic status within and between families, and exploring the characteristics of specific familial relationships (e.g., parent-child, siblings, etc.) within different cultural contexts (see Alt and Vach 1995; Case 2003; Johnson and Paul 2016; Stojanowski and Schillaci 2006). However, due to inherent biases within bioarchaeological kinship analysis, these studies can provide only a limited understanding of family, kinship, and relatedness in the past. The reasons for this are explored in the next section.

 valuating the Limited Impact and Limitations E of Bioarchaeological Kinship Research Despite the long history of kinship research within anthropology (see Holy 1996), anthropologists are infrequently recognized as family experts in public discourse. Experts in family organization tend to be those who speak to “universal” aspects of human family organization including mate preference, mating strategies, and child


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rearing, not ethnographers, (bio)archaeologists, and others whose work is devoted to specific cultural contexts. Stojanowski and Duncan (2015) note that bioarchaeological scholarship tends to be published in venues (journals and book chapters in edited volumes) that have a regional focus, and they argue that because of this, we (bioarchaeologists) tend to marginalize our work, unintentionally exclude ourselves from public discussions, and allow others to take our place (Stojanowski and Duncan 2015). Instead, the role of family expert is typically filled by historians (Coontz 1997, 2016), sociologists (Cohen 2015), biological anthropologists including primatologists (Fisher 1992; Hrdy 1999; Small 1995), and evolutionary psychologists (Salmon and Shackelford 2007). Bioarchaeologists can contribute to discussions of the nature of family organization and its diversity in different times and places (see Geller 2017), but we are not often afforded the opportunity to do so. The most prominent examples include blog posts and other responses to popular media stories reporting on the discovery of sensationalized multiple burials (i.e., “embracers,” “lovers,” and “Romeo and Juliet” skeletons) that make national and international headlines. For example, bioarchaeologists have weighed in on the problematic aspects of applying contemporary sociosexual behaviors and identities to individuals from different societies (e.g., Geller 2017; Killgrove 2011a, b, 2017; Meyers Emery 2011, 2014). As producers of and commentators on bioarchaeological research related to family and kinship, bioarchaeologists tend to remain invisible, but there are a few exceptions. Pilloud and Larsen’s (2011) research on practical kinship at Çatalhöyük received broad attention (see Two of the more prominent bioarchaeologists on social media have reported on kinship research in recent years. Kristina Killgrove (2015) featured bioarchaeological family research in Iceland by Zoëga and Murphy (2016) and Gestsdóttir (2014), respectively, in her regular column on Kathryn Meyers Emery (2013) featured bioarchaeological kinship analysis by Deguilloux et al. (2014) on her blog Bones Don’t Lie. Kerriann Marden’s comments on Kennett et  al.’s (2017) Nature paper represents a notable recent example of a bioarchaeologist serving as a public expert on family and kinship that warrants further consideration. Kennett et al. (2017) made international headlines with their Nature paper that presented paleogenetic and radiocarbon evidence for the presence of an elite matrilineal kin group at Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon. The widespread interest in their findings may reflect a general interest in ancient family research, particularly as it intersects with inherited social inequality.3 Alternatively, the attention this study received could simply reflect the high profile journal in which it was published and/ or the public’s fetishization of genetic data. In general, media coverage summarized  The rise of economic inequality in the USA and elsewhere is one of the most important sociopolitical issues that we face (Beller and Hout 2006; Stiglitz 2012) and is strongly associated with family organization. Family background has a powerful influence on children’s opportunities and social class destinations (Cohen 2015). The family one is born into influences one’s life chances, the practical opportunity to achieve desired material conditions, and personal experiences (Weber 1946). 3

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Kennett and colleagues’ findings and provided additional comments by the authors or other scholars not involved in the project (e.g., de Pastino 2017; Geggel 2017; Horowitz 2017). It is informative to consider who was called upon to comment on the evidence for and significance of matrilineal leadership and inherited social inequality at Chaco Canyon. Almost exclusively these outside experts were regional specialists in the archaeology of the US Southwest rather than archaeologists or bioarchaeologists who study ancient family organization and kinship. However, Marden, a bioarchaeologist and forensic anthropologist who specializes in the US Southwest and whose research focuses on Chaco Canyon, was one of the few experts who questioned the significance of the findings in terms of elucidating sociopolitical organization at Chaco.4 Science News reporter Bruce Bower (2017) interviewed Marden about the putative matriline at Pueblo Bonito, and she commented on some critical gaps in authors’ data. Marden noted the significance of the fact that DNA was not recovered from 5 of the 14 skeletons found in Room 33, the alleged burial location of the elite matriline, somewhat complicating the interpretation that Room 33 was a special mortuary chamber for the members of a single elite matriline. Furthermore, according to Marden, “[w]ithout DNA from individuals buried in other rooms at Pueblo Bonito and in other parts of Chaco Canyon, it’s impossible to say whether those placed in Room 33 belonged to a unique mitochondrial DNA lineage, much less a female-based political dynasty” (Bower 2017). The commentary by Marden and others demonstrates there is an important role for bioarchaeologists in public discussions of family, and it is puzzling that bioarchaeologists have not emerged as experts in family organization. In contrast to comparative primatology and ethnography, bioarchaeological data can provide direct biosocial data of human family organization in the past, often with sufficient temporal depth to facilitate diachronic analyses. I suspect that two factors primarily contribute to the limited visibility of bioarchaeological family research in the media. First, there is comparatively little bioarchaeological research that focuses on family and kinship. Second, the work that is done tends to convey limited information about family, kinship, and relatedness. Specifically, it focuses on the identification of genetic relatives in archaeological contexts, often as an end in itself. I now consider each of these issues in greater detail.

 he Limited Volume and Scope of Bioarchaeological Kinship T Research The family has been deemed “an invention as significant as cooking and art in human evolution,” but the family receives little attention in scientific narratives of human biosocial evolution (Marks 2015, pp. 146–147). I would argue that the same  Many scholars who were asked to comment on Kennett et al.’s findings were more focused on noting the ethical issues raised by their study (see Balter 2017). 4


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is true in bioarchaeology, where little research explicitly addresses family, kinship, and relatedness. A literature review by Johnson and Paul (2016) indicated that bioarchaeological research on kinship and family has steadily increased over the past several decades, but it still comprises a small portion of all bioarchaeological research. Bioarchaeological studies of ancient health and disease, violence and warfare, sex and gender, ethnicity and ethnogenesis, colonialism and forms of culture contact, paleomobility, diet, life course studies (e.g., childhood and aging), and activity patterns and economic production are more frequently published compared to studies of family and kinship (see Stojanowski and Duncan 2015). Why is it that comparatively little bioarchaeological research focuses on the family? I think it is not because we are unable to address this scale of analysis. Perhaps in certain contexts, due to issues of preservation or insufficient data, we are unable to assess intracommunity organization in a meaningful and productive way, but, in general, these are not prohibitive factors in many contexts. I think the issue is a lack of interest rather than an inability on the part of bioarchaeologists to rigorously investigate relatedness and family organization in the past. Marks (2015, pp. 146– 147) attributes the lack of attention family has received within studies of human biosocial evolution to the fact that family is “composed of relationships, rather than of organic properties that leave a material record.” Clearly, relationships do not preserve, but, if relationships are enacted, practiced, and embodied, material residues of those relationships can be preserved in human skeletal remains. As bioarchaeological studies of social identities have demonstrated (e.g., Agarwal and Glencross 2011; Gowland and Knüsel 2006; Hamilakis et al. 2002; Knudson and Stojanowski 2008, 2009; Sofaer 2006), our social affiliations, identities, and relationships can leave indicators in our bodies and the material culture preserved in the archaeological record. We simply need to approach the study of family, kinship, and relatedness in new ways.

 he Biologistic Limitations of Bioarchaeological Kinship T Analysis In its objective of identifying individuals with close genetic relatedness, bioarchaeological kinship analysis continues the long tradition of anthropological kinship research emphasizing genealogical relatedness (see Holy 1996; Keesing 1975). The genealogical method developed by Morgan (1871) and formalized by Rivers (1910) was a cornerstone of British social anthropology and American cultural anthropology for decades (Bouquet 1993). This began to change during the latter half of the twentieth century, when anthropologists began criticizing kinship research as “biologistic” and implicit in anthropology’s Eurocentric perspectives on gender, relatedness, and social organization in general (see Collier and Yanagisako 1987; MacCormack and Strathern 1980; Schneider 1968, 1972) and questioning whether kinship was a valid subject of inquiry (Schneider 1984).

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The “new kinship” that emerged in the aftermath of this critical scholarship sought to disentangle biological relationships based on reproduction (i.e., genitrix and genitor) from kinship as social relationships (i.e., mother and father) (Ottenheimer 1995). Within sociocultural anthropology, kinship has largely been reconceptualized as “relatedness” and is considered to be constructed and maintained by purposeful action rather than a given “biological fact” (e.g., Carsten 1995, 2000, 2004; Franklin and McKinnon 2000, 2001; Sahlins 2013; cf. Shapiro 2014). Ethnographic studies of kinship increasingly embrace more complex and culturally appropriate conceptions of relatedness (Astuti 2009; Bamford 2009; Bodenhorn 2000; Carsten 1995, 1997; Leach 2009; Merlan and Rumsey 1991; Nuttall 2000; Sahlins 2013; Strathern 1973; Viveiros de Castro 2009; Weismantel 1995). Bioarchaeological kinship research has been slower to engage recent theoretical developments. However, inroads are being made, and “new kinship” studies by sociocultural anthropologists have been influencing bioarchaeological kinship research in two ways. First, there has been an increase in the number of bioarchaeological kinship studies that employ broader conceptions of relatedness in archaeological contexts (Johnson and Paul 2016; see Gregoricka 2013; Meyer et al. 2012; Pilloud and Larsen 2011). Second, bioarchaeological studies of kinship are expanding their scope and exploring the ways kinship intersects with different aspects of social life, including multigenerational structural inequality (Stojanowski 2013) and the transition from hunting and foraging to an agricultural lifestyle (Alt et al. 2013, 2015; Pilloud and Larsen 2011). Despite these efforts, the identification of close biological relatives in mortuary contexts continues to be the primary objective of many studies (e.g., Baca et al. 2012; Deguilloux et al. 2014; Gamba et al. 2011; Haak et al. 2008; Lee et al. 2014; Perego 2012). This is unfortunate, but it is not surprising given that bioarchaeological kinship analysis is situated within a worldview (and intellectual tradition) in which relatedness is first and foremost biological and family organization is inherently heteronormative. The normative paradigm for conceptualizing kinship in Western society is based on a genealogical model of relatedness in which inheritance of shared biogenetic substance (blood or genes) is transmitted across generations from one’s direct ancestors (Bamford and Leach 2009; Bouquet 1993; Klapish-Zuber 1991, 2000). Schneider (1968, 1984) effectively demonstrated that anthropological kinship study has primarily involved operationalizing a distinctly Western conception of kinship—one symbolically structured according to genealogy and conceptualized in terms of blood or genetic relationships—and employing it ethnographically. Genealogies represent a specific (cultural) way of thinking about and establishing the general parameters of relatedness and for identifying specific relatives developed within a particular sociocultural context (Ingold 2000; Klapish-Zuber 1991, 2000). The process of constructing genealogies is a discursive practice of configuring social relationships as if they were biological facts, and this, in turn, restricts one’s ability to recognize other forms of relatedness and family organization (Bamford and Leach 2009; Bouquet 1996, 2001; Bourdieu 1977; Deleuze and Guattari 1988; Geller 2017; Holmes 2009; Ingold 2009; Leach 2009; Pálsson 2009;


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Shryock et  al. 2011). Even those anthropologists who do not formally employ genealogical methods tend to reflect its influence in their work. Assumptions about human nature, including genealogical relatedness, influence the development of research methodologies, from the development of methods for analyzing skeletons (Geller 2005; Walrath 2017) to the way we partition datasets prior to performing analyses (Agarwal 2012, 2017; Geller 2017). Countless ethnographic examples illustrate that genealogical kinship is not the only way that relatedness and family are conceived, practiced, and experienced (e.g., Astuti 2009; Bamford 2004, 2009; Carsten 1995; Kelly 2011; Leach 2003, 2009; Viveiros de Castro 2009). Even within Western society we can easily recognize familial relationships established through  marriage, adoption, and  “fictive” kinship that are not based in biology (e.g., Baumann 1995; Borneman 2001; Schneider 1972; Weston 1991). When we think more reflexively about our family relations, it is apparent that kinship is also something learned and constructed. The content of relatedness, the way people form close social bonds, whatever it is that establishes a mutuality of being between persons, is multifaceted and variable within and between societies (e.g., Carsten 1995; Lancaster 2005; Ottenheimer 1995; Sahlins 2013). Bioarchaeologists are beginning to acknowledge that kinship and family organization involve more than biological relatedness (e.g., Alt and Vach 1998; Haak et al. 2008; Hefner et al. 2016; Johnson and Paul 2016; Meyer et al. 2012; Pilloud and Larsen 2011), but we struggle to operationalize conceptions of relatedness that are not primarily biological (Johnson and Paul 2016). Even studies that implement broader conceptualizations of relatedness can inadvertently reduce kinship to biological relatedness through data collection and analysis (e.g., Harper and Tung 2012; Johnson 2016; Matney et al. 2012; Ricaut et al. 2006). We—intentionally or not—prioritize biological relatedness in kinship analysis, and we struggle to develop approaches to kinship that adequately accommodate both biological and social aspects of relatedness. We tend to invoke social relatedness (e.g., practical and fictive kinship) in a post hoc fashion when results of kinship analysis indicate biological relatedness did not structure mortuary practices (i.e., burial location) (see Pilloud and Larsen 2011; Prevedorou and Stojanowski 2017). Because it begins with data and methods intended to assess genetic relatedness, bioarchaeological kinship analysis boxes itself into an inferential corner from which it is difficult to escape when faced with the equifinality of negative results. This limitation is inherent to kinship analysis. The data and analytical approaches used in bioarchaeological kinship analysis are intended to answer one question only: were individuals genetic relatives, yes or no? In other words, when kinship analysis identifies close genetic relatives within a skeletal series, all is well. However, negative results—that is, no evidence of close genetic relatives within a skeletal series—are highly problematic. Many factors can complicate biological kinship analysis and lead to negative results. These include preservation bias, sampling bias, the presence of spouses and affines (who were presumably not close biological relatives), too little biological variability within the sample(s), too much biological variability within the sample(s)

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(e.g., heterogeneity due to rapid and substantial gene flow), the temporal depth of the sample(s), problematic definitions of kin, and the difficulty of differentiating close genetic relatives from nonrelatives (Cadien et al. 1974; Paul and Stojanowski 2015, 2017; Pilloud and Larsen 2011; Prevedorou and Stojanowski 2017; Rösing 1986; Stojanowski and Hubbard 2017). Consider, for example, Marin Pilloud’s (Pilloud 2009; Pilloud and Larsen 2011) research at the large Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük (7400–5600 cal BC) in present day Turkey. In a previous publication (Johnson and Paul 2016), my coauthor and I highlighted Pilloud’s work as an innovative example of the use of social relatedness in bioarchaeological kinship research. Here I would like to use this study as an example of the inferential challenges involved in exploring non-biological kinship when the analysis focuses on phenotypic data as a proxy for genetic relatedness. Pilloud (Pilloud 2009; Pilloud and Larsen 2011) tested archaeologically derived hypotheses that the house-based system of social organization at Çatalhöyük was based on families defined by biological relatedness.5 Pilloud analyzed permanent and deciduous dental metric and morphological data from a sample of 266 individuals to assess whether individuals buried in the same houses at Çatalhöyük are more similar to one another in tooth size and morphology than they are to individuals buried in other houses. Overall, Pilloud found little evidence to suggest that individuals buried within houses were biological relatives. Contrary to expectations, biological kinship was not a key aspect of house-based social organization at Çatalhöyük. Instead, house membership was based on “a more fluid definition of family” (Pilloud and Larsen 2011, p. 526). Drawing on Bourdieu’s (1977) distinction between “official” and “practical” kinship, Pilloud and Larsen propose that the inhabitants of Çatalhöyük employed an “alternate definition of kin” that reflects a movement away from what Bourdieu (1977) calls ‘official kin,’ or biological kin, that likely dominated the preceding hunting and gathering populations, to a focus on ‘practical kin.’ These are kin groups that do not rely on biological definitions, but instead are groups called together for any number of social or cultural reasons... (Pilloud and Larsen 2011, p. 526)

Pilloud and Larsen explicitly link the development of practical kinship at Çatalhöyük with the transition from foraging and hunting to agriculture and sedentary lifestyle and situate it within a cultural evolutionary framework. The implicit assumption is that foraging and other “simple” societies are structured by biological kin relations whereas agricultural and other more complex societies are structured by nonkin-­ based institutions such as government and laws (Service 1962). This research represents a novel and important contribution to the bioarchaeological kinship literature, one that goes beyond the mere identification of genetic relatives within mortuary contexts. Pilloud (Pilloud 2009; Pilloud and Larsen 2011) explores broader conceptions of relatedness in the past and links relatedness, kinship, and family organization to larger scales of sociopolitical organization at a  Pilloud’s research was first presented in her 2009 dissertation, but the discussion here draws from both her dissertation and the 2011 American Journal of Physical Anthropology article based on her dissertation research and coauthored with Clark Larsen, her PhD advisor. 5


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critical socioeconomic transition in human history. Unfortunately, the interpretation that biological relatedness was not a significant criterion of house membership is based on negative results and warrants qualifications, which the authors do enumerate. Pilloud and Larsen discuss different factors that may have influenced their negative results, including small sample sizes  from the various houses, and they are careful to note that their interpretation of the data is simply one of many possible interpretations.6 The problem of drawing strong inferences from negative results is compounded by a critical conceptual issue. For Bourdieu (1977), all kin are genealogical kin; the distinction between official and practical kin lies in the strength of the relationship and the regularity of its enactment (see also Waterson 1986, 1995). According to Bourdieu, official kinship refers to the cognitive maps of formal familial relationships used by members of a society, and practical kinship refers to familial relationships that were actively maintained in practice (Bourdieu 1977, pp.  37–38). For instance, a genealogy depicting all of my relatives is a representation of my official kin, whereas the relatives I choose to spend time with on a consistent basis are my practical kin. Furthermore, Bourdieu specifically did not include non-genealogical relationships within the domain of practical kinship. Instead, he differentiates two types of practical relationships: “genealogical relationships kept in working order (here called practical kinship)” and “non-genealogical relationships which can be mobilized for the ordinary needs of existence” (Bourdieu 1977, p. 39). Despite this distinction, Pilloud includes relationships with persons who are not genetic relatives as practical kinship. According to Pilloud, “practical kinship includes genealogical and non-genealogical relationships that are mobilized for various situational needs” (2009, p.  123, emphasis added; see also Pilloud and Larsen 2011). Despite the misuse of Bourdieu’s practical kinship, Pilloud’s interpretation of social kinship at Çatalhöyük represents an interesting alternative hypothesis that warrants further investigation. Unfortunately, subsequent summaries of social organization at Çatalhöyük that cite Pilloud’s work replicate her use of practical kinship and further simplify Bourdieu’s concepts until official kinship is equated with genealogical relatedness and practical kinship is equated with ­non-­genealogical relatedness (Hillson et al. 2013; Larsen et al. 2015; cf. Carleton et al. 2013). In sum, this critique is intended to highlight the difficulty of implementing a non-biological conception of relatedness when the analysis is based on phenotypic (or molecular) data as a proxy for genetic relatedness.

 Pilloud and Larsen (2011, p. 527) note that small sample sizes may have prevented them from analytically identifying “familial patterns that were present.” However, the inverse – that increased sample sizes could make it more difficult to identify genetic relatives  – is equally plausible. Stojanowski and Hubbard (2017, p. 824) note that given the limited variability in human dentition, including larger sample sizes in an analysis likely “will increase the noise in the resulting multivariate output” making it more difficult to identify genetic relatives. 6

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 he Prevalence of Heteronormative Bias in Bioarchaeological T Kinship Research Bioarchaeological approaches to kinship largely operate within a worldview based on heteronormative assumptions about the nuclear family as the natural, essential model of family organization. Heteronormativity refers to practices and discourse concerning “the institutionalization and naturalization of dimorphic, deterministic beliefs about socio-sexual lives” (Geller 2017, p. 70). As a pervasive form of common sense about biological differences between women and men, heteronormativity contributes to the naturalization of culture and limits or silences other ways of knowing, being, and perceiving (Geller 2017).  A heteronormative worldview fits seamlessly alongside a genealogical conception of kinship in which relatedness is based on marriage and shared biogenetic substance; these bonds form the basis of the nuclear family, the idealized family form comprised of a married heterosexual couple and their (biological) offspring. The perception of the nuclear family as the “universal,” “natural,” or “fundamental” family form, even by anthropologists (see Fortes 1949; Le Play 1871; Malinowski 1913; Murdock 1949), reflects its role as a cultural ideal more than its history. The nuclear family arrangement emerged as a byproduct of a series of social, cultural, and economic changes that occurred during the nineteenth century, including the industrialized market economy, high levels of residential mobility, decreased infant mortality, declining birth rate, and a gendered division of labor into public (male) and domestic (female) spheres (Coontz 2016; DePaullo 2016; Sear 2016). Given its recent emergence in Western societies, the nuclear family is a limited model for investigating family organization in the archaeological record, even within historic Western contexts such as ancient Greece and Rome (Martin 1996; Nathan 2000). The limitations of the nuclear family model are further compounded by substantial census, ethnographic, ethnohistoric, and primatological data which highlight the diversity and flexibility in family organization within human and nonhuman primate communities (e.g., Cohen 2015; DePaullo 2016; Murdock 1967). Recent bioarchaeological and paleogenetic research at the Neolithic site of Eulau in the Saxony-Anhalt region of Germany illustrates why it is problematic to use the nuclear family model of family organization in prehistoric contexts. Four closely grouped multiple burials associated with the Corded Ware culture and dated to roughly 4600 years BP were discovered at Eulau in 2005. The archaeological context and radiocarbon dates indicate these were primary burials that were interred at the same time (Haak et al. 2008). Haak et al. (2008) used molecular genetic data (mtDNA, Y-STRs and Y-SNPs, and autosomal STRs) to investigate family relationships among individuals within the collective graves. Among the graves with sufficient preservation they identified two potential family groupings, one of which they suggest represents a nuclear family. Grave 99 contained an adult female (35–50 years old at death), an adult male (40–60 years old at death), and two children. The woman and the children were found to share the


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same mtDNA haplogroup (K1b), while the man and the children share the same Y chromosome haplogroup (R1a). In light of the genetic data, mortuary context, and the position of the bodies relative to one another within the grave, the authors conclude the foursome represents a nuclear family. These results are compelling, and I do not question their accuracy or the validity of the methods used. Instead I want to highlight, as others have done (Chap.8; Tallbear 2013), that genetic and paleogenetic studies are susceptible to the same cultural biases and conceptual challenges that affect studies of family, kinship, and relatedness that use phenotypic data. The genetic data, mortuary context, and body positioning are strong evidence for social, possibly familial, relationships among the deceased, but Geller (2017) is right to challenge why the nearly 5000-year-old multiple burial in Grave 99 is considered a nuclear family. To paraphrase Geller (2017), the analysis of mtDNA and Y chromosome DNA is informative about biological relationships along the maternal and paternal lines, respectively, but even these provide a restricted view of ancestry (see also Marks 2015). These data, in and of themselves, do not speak to the culturally constructed qualities of marriage, motherhood, fatherhood, or parent-child relationships within Corded Ware communities. Perhaps Corded Ware families were configured similarly to contemporary nuclear families, and the normative family group consisted of two individuals of the opposite sex and their children. Or, perhaps it is “equally feasible that the nuclear family concept had no applicability in the Central European Neolithic” (Geller 2017, p. 105). Although the authors explicitly state that they do not consider the nuclear family “a universal model or the most ancient institution of human communities” (Haak et al. 2008, p. 18229), this does not prevent their work from being cited by others as evidence that it is (see Geller 2017, pp. 103–104). We must take care not to impose our historically derived, culturally normative conceptions on archaeological contexts. There is nothing essential, natural, or universal about the nuclear family constructed on biological (progenitor-progeny) and affinal ties (see Blackwood 2005; Dowson 2006; Geller 2009, 2017; Hayden 1995; Herdt 1987; Weston 1991; see also Cohen 2015; Coontz 2016; DePaullo 2016). Sexual relationships that produce offspring do not automatically forge family relationships between the procreating pair (Sahlins 2013). Surrogacy and adoption could have enabled same-sex spouses the opportunity to raise children in the past just as they do today. Constructing an essentialized model of “human nature” from a specific cultural logic—Euro-American or otherwise—“does not constitute science; it is closer to cultural colonialism” (Holland 2012, pp. 292; see Astuti 2009; Geller 2017). As discussed by Stojanowski (Chap. 8), public perception assumes that paleogenetic biodistance research is inherently better (i.e., more precise, more informative) than similar studies using phenotypic data. Kinship analysis using molecular data can (potentially) yield more informative results, depending on preservation, but it faces the same interpretive limitations and biologistic and heteronormative biases that affect bioarchaeological kinship analysis using phenotypic data. Molecular markers and phenotypic proxies of genetic relatedness are informative only of a certain aspect of relatedness. In and of themselves, these data do not signify anything

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about social relationships between persons. Molecular studies, just like phenotypic analyses, can only identify particular similarities or dissimilarities between individuals and groups; they cannot tell us whether someone was considered a member of a certain family, community, or nation. Membership in social groups including families and sovereign nations (e.g., tribal citizenship in the USA) is not determined solely by having a specific DNA profile; it also entails social practice and belonging (Marks 2015; Tallbear 2013). As Marks (2015) notes, at the level of one’s greatgrandparents, mtDNA, commonly used in aDNA studies, identifies only one of eight great-grandparents as significant to one’s family history and identity. Thus, the results of kinship analysis provide only a restricted perspective on family and kinship in the past, one that may not have been meaningful for the persons identified as relatives.

 trategies for Revitalizing and Increasing the Impact S of Bioarchaeological Family Research One way to increase the visibility of bioarchaeological family and kinship research is to develop a different approach to these subjects that increases their presence within bioarchaeology and their interest to wider audiences. Instead of imposing a presentist, genealogical model of family and relatedness on archaeological contexts, we need more holistic and flexible approaches that can potentially investigate family, kinship, and relatedness as they were meaningful and experienced within local cultural contexts. We need to develop alternative frameworks that differentiate bioarchaeological family research from kinship analysis.

 uilding a Better Bioarchaeological Approach to Family, B Kinship, and Relatedness In a recent review of bioarchaeological approaches to kinship, my coauthor and I argued that bioarchaeologists need to embrace broader conceptions of relatedness to accommodate more diverse forms of family organization in the past (Johnson and Paul 2016). While more diverse models of family organization and non-biological conceptions of relatedness are critical, solely focusing on theoretical aspects of family, kinship, and relatedness is insufficient to implement research designs that effectively investigate diverse forms of relatedness and family organization in the past. As illustrated above, it is difficult to apply a non-biological model of relatedness to biological data. When we do this, our common sense assumptions and normative biases infiltrate our methodologies and limit our results and inferences (e.g., Agarwal 2012, 2017; Geller 2017; Hollimon 2011, 2017).


K. M. Johnson

Bioarchaeological kinship analysis excludes particular types of relatedness, kinship, and families. In terms of relatedness, it is ill-equipped to detect non-biological aspects of relatedness. In terms of family organization, it frequently is unable to differentiate between close and distant genealogical relatives. Furthermore, it precludes family groupings that are not anchored by heterosexual couples. We must reframe our methodological practices and take a different approach to our data to avoid imposing normative models of Euro-American kinship in archaeological contexts. We can do so by “queering” our approach(es) to ancient families (Hollimon 2017). Queering conceptions of relatedness and family in the past does not mean seeking evidence of families built around same-sex pair-bonding (see Geller 2009, 2017; Hollimon 2017). Instead, it is simply an attempt to elicit nonnormative practices and modes of being. This means conceptualizing and operationalizing a framework for studying family and kinship that is not based a priori on biological relatedness and the nuclear family model. This also means trying to identify variation in family organization in the past, in addition to describing the normative patterns within a particular context. If we want to consider relatedness as potentially more complex and diverse than genetic relatedness, then we must start analyzing it as such. Rather than deny that we preferentially consider biological data in kinship research, we must acknowledge that bioarchaeological kinship analysis, as defined above and as established by decades of academic practice, is the study of genetic relatedness in the past. A separate approach is needed to facilitate a more inclusive approach to family organization in the past, one that more easily accommodates diverse conceptions of relatedness and family forms without making these secondary to biological relatedness.7 One way to implement research designs that can accommodate diverse conceptions of family organization, kinship, and relatedness in bioarchaeology is to approach family as a multiscalar form of social identity (see Johnson and Paul 2016). Because family relationships are practiced—interactive and based on shared experiences such as commensality, collective labor, co-residence, co-mobility, exposure to similar pathogens and injuries, etc. (Carsten 1995, 1997; Bamford 2009; Leach 2009; Sahlins 2013; Van Vleet 2008)—they can also be embodied. These patterned aspects of family relationships can become incorporated into and imprinted on material objects, including human bodies (Hamilakis et  al. 2002; Sofaer 2006). Thus, family-based social identities can be investigated in diverse cultural contexts using multiple lines of biosocial data from human skeletal remains and the archaeological record, not solely phenotypic or molecular data. To differentiate  To be clear, I am not advocating an abiological approach to kinship, nor am I suggesting we abandon bioarchaeological kinship analysis altogether. I believe bioarchaeological kinship analysis will continue to make important contributions to our understanding of past societies, but the contributions will be limited in scope. I am advocating an approach that does not preferentially prioritize phenotypic and genetic data in the analysis of family relationships within archaeological contexts. Genetic relatedness may be a useful approach for investigating family and kinship in many historic and archaeological contexts, but the basis for family relationships should not be reduced to biological relatedness before the analysis has begun 7

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this approach from bioarchaeological kinship analysis (i.e., the investigation of genetic relatedness in mortuary contexts), I refer to it as bioarchaeological family research (Johnson and Paul 2016; see also Hildur Gestsdóttir’s work summarized in Killgrove 2015). The goal of bioarchaeological family research is not to identify particular family types (e.g., nuclear vs. extended) or kinship systems in archaeological contexts (e.g., Ensor 2013; Saller 1984). Instead, the intent is to identify skeletal and cultural markers that reflect familial relationships to identify persons who considered themselves family. This will be an inductive endeavor, building up from individuals (i.e., multivariate data points) and looking for patterns (i.e., clusters) at increasingly larger spatial and/or analytical scales rather than employing a top-down (i.e., deductive) population-based analytical framework (Zvelebil and Weber 2013). The use of multiple lines of bioarchaeological data will be critical to identifying more diverse families and to avoid reducing relatedness to genetic relatedness. For example, different lines of evidence (e.g., isotopic, microbiotic, and dental pathological data) can be used to reconstruct paleodiet, which could serve as a proxy for commensality, food sharing, or similar diets. Paleopathological data could be used to make inferences regarding shared disease and health experiences. Musculoskeletal stress markers could be used as a proxy for collective work. Paleomobility could serve as a proxy for inhabiting a shared engaged landscape. Cultural modification of the body could signify family-based identities, depending on the scale at which clusters are apparent (see Hoshower et al. 1995). And yes, phenotypic, genetic, or genomic data can be used as a proxy for shared biogenetic substance. Individually, none of these may be sufficient to identify affiliation patterns indicative of family relationships, but, collectively, depending on the scale at which patterns emerge, they provide a biosocial framework for investigating mesoscale social organization that can potentially detect non-Western forms of family organization. If the goal is to use multiple lines of evidence to produce a balanced consideration of potential indicators of biosocial relatedness, it is important that these are analyzed simultaneously to avoid reducing relatedness to biogenetic relatedness in actu. It is critical that the analytical methods used are able to accommodate mixed data (e.g., continuous, ordinal, categorical) and missing data, a perennial problem in bioarchaeological research. Data reduction and ordination techniques may be required to reduce the data to a manageable number of original variables or identify new, uncorrelated variables (e.g., dimensions, axes, factors, components, etc.). Fortunately, many of the multivariate data analysis and visualization techniques commonly used in bioarchaeological studies can be applied to bioarchaeological family studies, including principal components analysis, multidimensional scaling, and agglomerative hierarchical cluster analysis (see Pietrusewsky 2008). Additionally, several analytical techniques that are, at present, less frequently used in bioarchaeology could be particularly useful; these include mixture models (e.g., Algee-Hewitt 2016; Schmidt 2012) and social network analysis (Johnson 2016). If potential family members or different family networks can be identified, then one potentially can evaluate the nature of relatedness within the cultural context, identify the specific criteria used to constitute familial relationships, and explore


K. M. Johnson

family organization in greater depth. This may include how families structured individual experiences and intertwined within larger social collectives. More specifically, bioarchaeologists could potentially explore family composition, roles within families regarding economic production, and child rearing and marriage practices. There is already a great deal of bioarchaeological research that is family-related or family-adjacent that could be incorporated into a more holistic bioarchaeological family research. This includes studies of care (Hawkey 1998; Tilley 2015a, b; Tilley and Oxenham 2011; Tilley and Schrenk 2017, mother and fetal health (Gowland 2015; Snoddy et  al. 2017), familial or “domestic” violence (e.g., Martin 1997; Novak 2006; Walker 1997), and life course and life stage studies (e.g., Halcrow and Tayles 2008, 2011; Mays et al. 2017; Perry 2005; Redfern and Gowland 2012). This approach  will entail interpretive challenges of a different sort. It may be difficult to differentiate family, community, ethnicity, and other dimensions of social affiliation in some archaeological contexts, and this will not always be due to poor preservation or limited data sets. We have multifaceted social personas and are members of multiscalar, interwoven social networks. Normative and nonnormative behaviors, practices, and material culture may relate to different axes of affiliation and identity (e.g., family, residential community, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, religion, etc.), or they may signify multiple aspects of identity simultaneously. If the majority of individuals within a skeletal sample shares similar patterns of diet, disease, repeated activity, body modification, etc., then together these data are not likely very informative about family organization but instead speak to a higher scale of social organization. Only through a careful reading of the archaeological record—supplemented with ethnohistoric and ethnographic sources when feasible—can we begin to disentangle the complexities of human sociality in the past.

Increasing the Visibility of Bioarchaeological Family Research As has been noted elsewhere (Baustian 2014; Martin and Osterholtz 2016), despite the dramatic overtones of an oft-repeated adage in popular writings and public talks on bioarchaeology (and forensic anthropology), bones do not “speak.” We create their narratives using the theoretical orientations and methodologies at our disposal, along with our own cultural, intellectual, and personal biases. Bioarchaeologists are producers of knowledge about individuals, social groups, practice, and institutions in the past, and our research contributes to discourses of normality (sensu Turkel 1990, p. 172; see also Bourdieu 1977; Foucault 1970, 1977, 1978). We can use our research to engage with a public that operates from within a culture that frames kinship as biological first and foremost and views the nuclear family as both the essential form and the desired pinnacle of human social organization. To destabilize contemporary common sense conceptions of kinship rooted in biologistic and heteronormative assumptions about the naturalness of the nuclear family, bioarchaeologists must effectively communicate their research to broader

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audiences (Stojanowski and Duncan 2015). This means presenting our work via media that will be seen and heard in formats that engage and using narratives that capture the public imagination. Massive open online courses (MOOCs), online talks, podcasts, op-ed pieces, television and radio appearances, blogs, and popular science books are some possible paths to reaching wider audiences and claiming a space in public discussions regarding family issues. As discussed above, widespread interest in and popular science coverage of collective burials of “families,” “lovers,” and individuals with potentially nonnormative sociosexual identities (at least according to contemporary standards, if not their own) such double burials interpreted as “gay cavemen” demonstrate a general curiosity in family and kinship. These burials also provide critical opportunities for bioarchaeologists to engage social and political narratives that project contemporary family norms onto the past (see Geller 2017; Killgrove 2011a, b, 2017; Meyers Emery 2011, 2014). These burials become touchstones in political debates about family organization, sexuality, gender identity, and gendered behavior with advocates on either ends of the political spectrum using them to further their sociopolitical narrative. Supporters of the LGBTQIA+ communities view burials such as “gay cavemen” and “transvestite priest” as salient symbols and evidence of a long history of nonhetero identities and nonnormative lifestyles (see Geller 2017). Opponents of LGBTQIA+ lifestyles focus on ancient burials of “nuclear” families as evidence of the naturalness and superiority of this family form. Both sides project contemporary norms, behaviors, and identities onto the past and then draw on that revisionist version of the past to justify social and political activism in the present (Geller 2017; Killgrove 2017). Although these burials may not be all that informative about gender, sexuality, family, and kinship in the past, they provide opportunities for bioarchaeologists to promote critical reflection of contemporary values, practices, and identities in widely accessible blogs (e.g., Killgrove 2011a, b, 2017; Meyers Emery 2011, 2014). However, it is important that efforts to promote bioarchaeological family research go beyond commenting on and deconstructing a few sensationalized multiple burials to present original research and provide more holistic representations of relatedness, kinship, and family organization in the past.

Summary and Conclusion The study of human family organization is central to understanding a number of contemporary social issues including individual and community health disparities, social inequality, and individual and collective rights to marry. The ways in which families are constituted and the bases for familial relationships have varied over time and in different places, and this variation is relevant to contemporary debates. As a subfield that integrates biological and cultural data to reconstruct social processes and interpret these within frameworks based on evolutionary and social theory, bioarchaeology is ideally suited to advance more complex understandings of family, kinship, and relatedness and contribute to public discussions of family organization.


K. M. Johnson

To date, bioarchaeological efforts to contribute to broader understandings of family and relatedness have been stymied by the influence of genealogical discourse that permeates Western worldview (Bamford 2009; Bamford and Leach 2009; Holmes 2009; Ingold 2009; Kakaliouras 2006; Leach 2009) and continues to influence anthropological kinship studies (e.g., Ensor 2013; Godelier 2011; Holy 1996; Larsen 2003; Lovejoy 1981; Shenk and Mattison 2011; Trautmann and Whitley 2012). Despite efforts to consider broader conceptions of relatedness and more diverse forms of family organization, bioarchaeologists tend to reduce kinship to biology through data collection and analysis. Biologistic and heteronormative assumptions permeate bioarchaeological kinship analysis, restrict our notions of what family and relatedness are and can be, and contribute to research that primarily replicates contemporary Western conceptions of kinship and family forms in the archaeological record. Instead, we need to implement frameworks for investigating family that do not reduce relatedness to biology a priori or in practice. I presented a framework for investigating relatedness, kinship, and family in the past using a social identity approach. I labeled this approach bioarchaeological family research to differentiate it from bioarchaeological kinship analysis. By using multiple lines of bioarchaeological data and analyzing them simultaneously we can avoid prioritizing phenotypic or genetic data and inadvertently restricting our focus to genetic relatedness. This will allow us to investigate broader ontologies and practices of relatedness and diverse family forms in the past. In this chapter, I have argued that the best way for bioarchaeological kinship research to contribute to current discussions regarding family organization is to highlight the diversity and flexibility in family organization and relatedness through time and space. The approach to bioarchaeological family research advocated here should facilitate the development of more nuanced research designs to ensure we reflexively engage our implicit assumptions and biases and do not simply impose our presentist, normative assumptions on archaeological contexts (see Geller 2017; Joyce 2017; Rice 2009; Walrath 2017). By implementing a biosocial approach to family organization, bioarchaeologists can generate research that is more inclusive of diverse conceptions of relatedness and family structures. This vision of ­bioarchaeological family research provides an important way to model intracommunity variation and can contribute to a multiscalar analytical framework that links individuals into larger scales of social affiliation (Johnson and Paul 2016; Stojanowski 2013; Torres-Rouff and Knudson 2017; Zvelebil and Weber 2013). This approach may help position bioarchaeologists as experts on kinship and family organization, and we will be able to engage effectively with heteronormative (mis) representations of kinship and foment more inclusive understandings of family. Acknowledgments  My sincere thanks to Jane Buikstra for shepherding this volume to completion and for her critical feedback on earlier versions of this chapter. I also thank the two anonymous reviewers who provided comments and suggestions that helped me clarify my thinking on certain aspects of my argument and improved the overall quality of the chapter.

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Walrath, D. (2017). Bones, biases, and birth: Excavating contemporary gender norms from reproductive bodies of the past. In S. C. Agarwal & J. K. Wesp (Eds.), Exploring sex and gender in bioarchaeology (pp. 15–49). Albuquerque: University of New Mexico. Waterson, H.  R. (1986). The ideology and terminology of kinship among the Sa’dan Toraja. Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, 142(1), 87–112. Waterson, R. (1995). Houses, graves and the limits of kinship groupings among the Sa’dan Toraja. Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, 151(2), 194–217. Weber, M. (1946). From Max Weber: Essays in sociology (trans: Gerth, H. H. & Mills, C. W.). New York: Oxford University Press. Weismantel, M. (1995). Making kin: Kinship theory and Zumbagua adoptions. American Ethnologist, 22, 685–704. Weston, K. (1991). Families we choose: Lesbians, gays, kinship. New York: Columbia University Press. Zoëga, G., & Murphy, K. A. (2016). Life on the edge of the Arctic: The bioarchaeology of the Keldudalur Cemetery in Skagafjörður, Iceland. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, 26(4), 574–584. Zvelebil, M., & Weber, A. W. (2013). Human bioarchaeology: Group identity and individual life histories—Introduction. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 32, 275–279.

Chapter 10

The Fallacy of the Transgender Skeleton Pamela L. Geller

Introduction I have been thinking in ellipses these days. As I see it, the ellipsis is an underutilized though exceedingly useful form of punctuation. It can indicate a trailing off—a thought unfinished, a thought still in thought... It can elicit a pause... to create suspense. Or, it can omit that which is deemed inessential by an author. Why, may one ask, do I conjure the ellipsis in this particular context, a publication about the use (and abuse) of bioarchaeological data by varied publics? Given its three functions— ongoing process, creation of tension, and inclusion and omission—the ellipsis offers a useful frame for addressing the fallacy of the transgender skeleton.1 I deal with these elliptical observations in turn, narrowing my discussion down to (1) the careful and ongoing evaluation of presentism’s presence in reconstructions of the past; (2) mediascapes’ creations of suspense in accounts of ancient and historic socio-sexual lives; and (3) inclusions and omissions about sex, gender, and sexuality in both scholarly studies and popular presentations of bodyscapes.

 In invoking this phrase, I recognize that biotechnology now provides the means for manipulating skeletal elements to approximate body ideals. Plastic surgeons can, for instance, “feminize” the skulls of male-bodied individuals as part of the transition process (e.g., Becking et al. 2007). The body’s plasticity is not an issue in this paper, though forensic anthropologists should perhaps initiate a conversation about how such body modifications might complicate their analyses. 1

P. L. Geller (*) Department of Anthropology, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL, USA e-mail: [email protected] © Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019 J. E. Buikstra (ed.), Bioarchaeologists Speak Out, Bioarchaeology and Social Theory,



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Ongoing Process: Presentism As this edited volume amply illustrates, bioarchaeology has the raw data to deepen contemporary politicized and/or medicalized debates about myriad topics of sociopolitical salience—climate change (Schug et  al. Chap. 6), violence (Redfern and Fibiger Chap. 3), and epidemics (DeWitte Chap. 5), among other concerns. In the particular case of socio-sexual identities and interactions, lessons from the past can reveal prehistorical amnesia about marital arrangements, erotic couplings, and reproductive strategies. To do so works to counter essentializing and universalizing narratives about the current state of socio-sexual affairs. That being said, I regard this endeavor as one that first requires attention to the concept of presentism. To quote George Stocking (Stocking 1965, p. 2136), those who investigate the past are “undeniably conditioned in a thousand subtle ways by the present in which they write.” Discursive analysis is one way to identify the contemporary epistemological, ontological, and ethical frames that undergird the inferences drawn about fossilized and archaeological bodies. For example, in their studies of early hominid ancestors, paleoanthropologists use “monogamy” to describe the social behaviors of Australopithecus afarensis (e.g., Alexander and Noonan 1979; Gavrilets 2012; Larsen 2003; Lovejoy 1981; Reno et  al. 2003). Yet, most researchers provide no explicit definition of the term (for a noteworthy exception, see Kramer and Russell 2015). Perhaps they mean a “condition of having only one mate during a breeding season or during the breeding life of a pair,” per the American Heritage Dictionary (2000). But, monogamy also refers to the “practice or condition of being married to only one person at a time.” The latter definition certainly does not apply to prehistoric hominids. It does, however, speak volumes about our present state of socio-­ sexual affairs. Not tangential to scientific investigations is the sociopolitical context in which they take place. Pertinent to research on hominid monogamy, for instance, was President Bill Clinton’s signing of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) into federal law on 21 September 1996. Foundational for this act was the notion of “traditional” marriage—between a contractually bound, monogamous man and woman—as universal and quite ancient in its origins. And on 24 February 2004, when George W. Bush pressed for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, he too rooted heteronorms deep in humanity’s past: The union of a man and woman is the most enduring human institution, honoring—honored and encouraged in all cultures and by every religious faith. Ages of experience have taught humanity that the commitment of a husband and wife to love and to serve one another promotes the welfare of children and the stability of society. (Bush 2007, p. 264)

In answer, the American Anthropological Association disseminated a public statement attesting to the insupportability of such a presumption.2 Yet, interestingly, the most vocal debunkers of traditional marriage’s antiquity were cultural  See, accessed on 30 May 2017. 2

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a­ nthropologists, not archaeologists. More recently, when the Supreme Court debated the constitutionality of such legislation in June 2013, striking down Section 3 of the Act in the case of United States vs. Windsor, dissent still reaffirmed this understanding of marriage.3 Notably, Antonin Scalia chastised the majority for not “supporting an Act that did no more than codify an aspect of marriage that had been unquestioned in our society for most of its existence—indeed, had been unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history” (United States vs. Windsor 2013). His dissenting opinion, however, is rhetoric-laden and empirically light. Something so commonsensical, it would appear, requires neither supporting examples nor clarifying Notes even by eminent members of the judiciary. Whether born from scientists’ declarations of depoliticized positions or homophobia masquerading as judicial decision, I see this type of presentism—a prehistory of the past written in the terms of the present to paraphrase Michel Foucault—as dangerous for several reasons. When communicated to a general public, whose contemporary understanding of marriage is framed by controversy surrounding who may and may not enter into the institution, unqualified statements about monogamy may (1) conjure semantic confusion, (2) legitimate ideas for which there is little evidence, and/or (3) present modern socio-sexual arrangements related to ancient familial organizations, reproductive strategies, and socioeconomic relationships as human nature or common sense. These outcomes call attention to scholars’ lack of critical reflection. While I am less adept at making this case for legal scholars, elsewhere I have argued that many paleoanthropologists and bioarchaeologists are guilty of not undertaking sustained or deep deliberation (Geller 2005, 2008, 2009, 2017). “Presentism,” Valerie Pinsky (1989, p. 90) remarked, “typically involves a process of historical ‘abridgement’, reducing that detail and complexity to a search for linear connections between the past and the present in order to judge the past and legitimate the present.” That is, contemporary agendas can drive investigations of the past. Or, heteronormative ideas may be an unintended consequence of disseminating information beyond the confines of the academy or halls of justice, and this is a point to which I return later. For my part, I see Stocking’s (Stocking Jr 1965) understanding of enlightened presentism as useful. This position advocates understanding the past on its own terms, though not necessarily for its own sake. I also think it requires bioarchaeologists to think about the connection between the past and present as relational rather than progressive. The latter suggests social evolution, while the former emphasizes processes and invites reflective comparisons to engender more ethical bioarchaeology (see Geller and Suri 2014). Accordingly, to populate the past with diverse sociosexual lives makes visible evidence of alternative experiences and existences that

 Section 10.3 maintained that the federal interpretation of “marriage” and “spouse” only applied to opposite-sex unions. The United States vs. Windsor decision paved the way for Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 case in which the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage throughout the nation. Of course, Donald Trump’s selection of a Supreme Court justice, to fill the seat left vacant after Scalia’s death, could very well result in the overturning of Obergefell. 3


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debunk heteronormativity as human nature, as well as recognizes that the current Western sex/gender system is a construction capable of transformation. Of course, there are potential pitfalls to avoid. It is, for instance, crucial to not romanticize or colonize past socio-sexual identities. By this I mean that contemporary peoples should not claim a past socio-sexual identity to which they have no cultural connection. The Native American two-spirit is demonstrative. In referencing such gender variance, members of the LGBTQ community may aim to legitimate their own existence and derail homophobia. But, native descendants will likely find such appropriation objectionable. At stake for the latter is the perpetuation of colonialism (or the flourishing of neocolonialism), erosion of sovereignty, and oversimplification of a culturally specific and historically dynamic socio-sexual identity (Morgensen 2011; Morgensen 2010). Queer indigeneity then invokes identities that are intersectional and contextualized (e.g., Driskill et al. 2011). Additionally, and to reiterate Pinsky’s point, specialists and nonspecialists should not assume that identities born of present-day sociopolitical circumstances had relevance in the past. An excellent example is a single Corded Ware burial that Czech archaeologists discovered in spring of 2011. In this particular case, viral news coverage created tension. Archaeologists found... (elliptical pause to build tension) a transsexual or homosexual person who lived 5000 years ago.

Creation of Tension The Transsexual Caveman While excavating in the suburbs of Prague, members of the Czech Archeological Society discovered a Corded Ware burial that struck them as unusual. Their press release identified the decedent as a male-bodied individual who had been positioned and interred with grave goods typical of “women.” The body, which dated between 2900 and 2500  B.C., had been placed on its left side with his head facing east. Neither intentionality nor deviation from established mortuary patterns was in dispute. But from such information, archaeologists drew a provocative conclusion. From history and ethnology, we know that people from this period took funeral rites very seriously so it is highly unlikely that this positioning was a mistake,’ said lead archaeologist Kamila Remisova Vesinova. ‘Far more likely is that he was a man with a different sexual orientation, homosexual or transsexual.4

News reports about the discovery went viral. Věšínová’s statements, in which she conflates sex, gender, and sexuality, were oft-quoted. They even appeared in stories; http://; and­ caveman-czech-republic-man-buried-pots-not-tools-article-1.114638, all were accessed on 11 April 2011. 4

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by news outlets whom we may think of as being above the sensationalized fray, like NPR and Time. Other accounts deemed the decedent “gay” or a “third-gender.”5 Headlines hooked readers with wordplay, as well as insinuations about the decedent’s sexual orientation and great antiquity. • First homosexual caveman found (The Telegraph). • The oldest gay in the village: 5000-year-old is “outed” by the way he was buried (Daily Mail UK). • Caveman gay was buried this way (Gawker). • Researchers dig up “homosexual or transsexual” caveman near Prague (NPR). • Archaeologists find “gay caveman” near Prague (Time). • You were born evolved this way! Archaeologists find first gay caveman (Perez Hilton). • Archaeologists unearth 5000-year-old “third-gender” caveman (Mother Nature Network). Responses to the story were immediate and came from diverse publics. Lay audiences opined, often anonymously, on myriad comment boards. Their statements ran the gamut—from uncritically fascinated to grossly uninformed to mildly skeptical to unrepentantly homo- and transphobic.6 One CNN newscaster saw body position as a bigger befuddlement than designation of sexuality. “I mean how can you really tell …maybe it was …an accident …or …how can you really tell,” she stammered while reporting the story.7 An image from the LGBT online news source PinkNews showed an archaeologist gazing intently at the skull in her outstretched hand. “The person may have been transgender,” reads the caption.8 The photograph evoked a Shakespearean tableau. But, from a comparative, visual assessment, it does not seem to belong to the 5000-year-old decedent in question. Several academic archaeologists who maintain popular blogs—John Hawks (“john hawks weblog”), Rosemary Joyce (“Ancient Bodies, Ancient Lives”), and Kristina Killgrove (“Powered by Osteons”)—took the Czech researchers and reporters to task for their inferential deficiencies about sex, gender, sexuality, and/or, accessed 30 May 2017. 6  For examples, see 163,154/;; http://www.theapricity. com/forum/archive/index.php/t-25878.html; html; and,293.html. All were accessed on 9 December 2015. 7  See, accessed on 28 October 2016. 8  See, accessed on 30 October 2016. According to its “PinkNews covers politics, entertainment, religion and community news for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community in the UK and worldwide.” Other LGBTQ websites on which the story has appeared include T-HOUSE (http:// and LGBT Weekly (http:// All were accessed on 28 October 2016. 5


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b­ ioarchaeology.9 Rosemary Joyce, for instance, pointed out that Czech excavators presumed terms of modern origin were germane in ancient contexts. Transgender, which I discuss shortly, is one such term. These informed criticisms like the original story itself were rapidly and widely disseminated in online news sources like CNN.10 (A win for public intellectuals!) Nevertheless, the decedent’s identity as a homosexual or transsexual caveman continues to hold weight despite evidence to the contrary (e.g., Turek 2016).11 We may certainly attribute this to the fact that the Czech archaeologists who excavated the burial have yet to produce scholarly and peer-reviewed publications refuting or supporting their original claims. But, it is also important to consider the effects that mass media communications have on the representations of bodies, especially when socio-sexual lives are at issue.

Mediascapes To explain the effects of globalization on certain facets of cultural reproduction, Appadurai (1990, 1996) first elucidated five interconnected dimensions of “global cultural flow” in the early 1990s—ethnoscapes, technoscapes, financescapes, ideoscapes, and mediascapes. Of mediascapes’ movements, Appadurai (1990, p. 9) relates that they refer to the distribution of the electronic capabilities to produce and disseminate information (newspapers, magazines, television stations, and film production studios), which are now available to a growing number of private and public interests throughout the world, and to the images of the world created by these media …they tend to be image-centered, narrative-­based accounts of strips of reality, and what they offer to those who experience and ­transform them  For Joyce’s blog see: For Hawks’s blog see: For Killgrove’s blog see: www.poweredbyosteons. org/2011/04/gay-caveman-zomfg.html?m=1. All were accessed on 21 December 2015. 10   For examples, see burial/ and Both were accessed on 11 April 2011. 11  Elsewhere in Central Europe, as Jan Turek (2016) explains, archaeologists have unearthed several instances of Corded Ware and Bell Beaker burials containing elderly males with body orientation and grave goods more typical of females’ interments. He goes on to suggest that bioarchaeological evidence may signal an intersectional identity contoured by age and gender. But, his consideration of “transsexuality” is not without conceptual problems. Aside from collapsing sex, gender, and sexuality, Turek suggests these elderly males were “berdaches.” This French word is of Persian origin and implies passive homosexuality, male prostitution, or one’s status as a kept boy (Jacobs et al. 1997, pp. 4–5). Until recently, the term was used interchangeably with two-spirit, but it has since been deemed derogatory by members of the queer indigenous community. The public forum for Turek’s statements are not a blog or viral online news story but a peer-reviewed journal. Hence, academics—writers, peer reviewers, and journal editors—need also to interrogate the presentist assumptions implicit in the scholarly studies they disseminate, as well as engage more deeply with literature authored by feminist and queer writers. 9

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is a series of elements (such as characters, plots and textual forms) out of which scripts can be formed of imagined lives, their own as well as those of others living in other places.

Suffice to say that the world in which Appadurai first sketched out his understanding of the mediascape has changed in profound ways. Yet, a digital revolution in communication has made his concept more, not less, pertinent in the twenty-first century. Mediascapes’ reach is now wider, modes of dissemination have proliferated, and the speed of flow occurs at a more accelerated rate, as I have discussed elsewhere (Geller 2017). Arguably this change has democratized the process of dissemination, though socioeconomics can still dictate access to certain mediascapes. Not everyone’s phones are so smart. In the case of journalistic mediascapes, dead tree media (as bloggers might deign), digital journalism, edublogs, and/or their ensuing commentary all qualify as such. But, the Internet is rapidly making radio, television, and print media less prominent as sources of information for news. I do not wish to suggest that all these resources are equally legitimate. Major news sources, for instance, strive to be objective and ethical in ways that diverge from the politicized or religious agendas of many blogs or discussion boards. Nevertheless, the broadening of the journalistic terrain has made it much more difficult to distinguish facts from analysis from opinion from propaganda from entertainment (Berkowitz 2009). We are living in a day and age when “alternative facts” are a thing, audiences’ attention spans are abbreviated, and sensationalism is a journalistic norm. These phenomena are not mutually exclusive. There are several reasons news accounts of archaeological bodies contrast markedly with traditional academic routes for disseminating information and images. The one that I highlight here is the observation that online news with its tendency to go viral operates in hyper-time, which is remarkably different from the snail’s pace of sound scientific research, writing, and publication. Thus, immediate gratification comes at the expense of a traditional process of peer review. Nonspecialists and scholars’ accounts may then be perceived as equally accurate. I recognize the importance of distilling complex archaeological studies into formats accessible to nonspecialists, especially in the case of electronic mediascapes. But, I also think that we may not have identified all of the impediments to doing so. As I see it, part of the problem is bioarchaeology’s inclusion of certain socio-sexual lives and omission of others in their reconstructions of the past. This brings us to the final facet of the ellipse I identified at this chapter’s outset...

Inclusion and Omission Despite empirical evidence to the contrary, most archaeologists have long erased socio-sexual lives that counter heteronormative narratives from their scholarly considerations or popular presentations. By heteronormativity I mean the institutionalization of dualistic, deterministic beliefs and practices related to sex, gender, and sexuality, which are disappeared or deemed common sense (see Geller 2017 for extended discussion). Bodies are rigidly dimorphic; either male or female. Biology


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is destiny. Relationships are ideal when contractual, monogamous, long-­term, and opposite-sex. Labor organization is divisible and universal; a sexual division of labor constraints females to the domestic while males are granted power in public spheres. Heterosexuality is natural, characterized by males’ penetration of females, and for procreation. By heteronormativity I mean the institutionalization of dualistic, deterministic beliefs and practices related to sex, gender, and sexuality, which are disappeared or deemed common sense (see Geller 2017 for extended discussion). Bodies are rigidly dimorphic, either male or female. Biology is destiny. Relationships are ideal when contractual, monogamous, long term, and opposite sex. Labor organization is divisible and universal; a sexual division of labor constrains females to the domestic, while males are granted power in public spheres. Heterosexuality is natural, characterized by males’ penetration of females, and for procreation. Whether inadvertent or conscious, erasure of socio-sexual lives that depart from heteronorms or depiction of them as deviance is no less insidious and rage-inducing to paraphrase a response articulated by Mary Weismantel (2013, p. 320). It is structural violence that naturalizes heteronormativity and depicts other lives in terms of abjection. Weismantel calls for a “transgender archaeology,” evoking queer historian Susan Stryker’s (2008, p. 1) use of the term: I use it [transgender] …to refer to people who move away from the gender they were assigned at birth, people who cross over (trans-) the boundaries constructed by their culture to define and contain the gender …it is the movement across a socially imposed boundary away from an unchosen starting place—rather than any particular destination or mode of transition.

I certainly concur with Weismantel that archaeologists’ (and bioarchaeologists’) identification of different ways to be human is crucial for debunking the universality and timelessness of binary models about socio-sexual lives. Yet, I am more reticent to label this project “transgender archaeology.” My reasons go beyond semantics. Granted Stryker, like Weismantel, sees the term transgender “as a shorthand way of talking about a wide range of gender variance and gender atypicality in periods before the word was coined” (Stryker 2008, p.  24). I think to do so, however, is historically inaccurate and belies the intellectual (or existential) complications and political cogency that transgender encapsulates. Indeed, Stryker’s (2008) comprehensive treatment also details transgender history’s key terms, emergence, conceptual concerns, and political activism. The timeline extends  from juridical and medical assessments of cross-dressing in the nineteenth century to Magnus Hirschfeld’s coining of “transvestite” in 1910 to intellectual concerns and political activism born from (and reacting to) late-twentieth-century feminists and queers. And the etymology of “transgender” tracks back to the mid-1960s. Since then biomedical practitioners, popular writers, and vocal members of the community (who have increasingly taken more activist stances) have honed its meaning (Williams 2014). This is all to say that gender variance is likely an ancient and cross-cultural phenomenon. But, “transgender” cannot be disentangled from sociopolitical processes that are very recent in historic date and cultural setting. The use of this term, or trans- more generally, to describe identities or experiences in the bioarchaeologi-

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cal record then points to effacement of contemporary Western society’s recent past, as well as a disregard for (or insensitivity to) dimensions of sex/gender systems that are contingent and themselves dynamic. Aside from transgender’s inseparability from modernist narratives of creation and postmodern ones of critique and politicization, I see the fomentation of a transgender archaeology as likely to result not in radical paradigm shift but misappropriation by non-scholarly audiences and academics. The “transsexual caveman” from the Czech Republic suggests as much. Instead of a transgender archaeology, I advocated for the investigation of gender variance. I use the term here as a catchall for identities and actions that depart from the norm, as well as recognize that an individual’s gender is incongruent with their biological sex. Nor should gender be conflated with sexuality (i.e., gender variance ≠ homosexuality) (Halberstam 1998; Stryker 2008). Gender nonconformity, non-binary gender, and gender bending, though perhaps not gender dysphoria for its allusion to the modern clinic and stigma, are equally applicable. The key is to take into account a culture’s specific and shifting understanding of the connections between sex, gender, and sexuality (Blackwood 1984; Halberstam 1998). In bioarchaeology and mortuary archaeology, several researchers have done just that (see Weismantel 2013 for additional examples): Bettina Arnold’s (1991) treatment of the “Princess of Vix” from Iron Age France, for instance, or Sandra Hollimon’s corpus of work that has examined two-spirits within native North America with special attention to native California (Hollimon 1997, 2000, 2001, 2006). There is also evidence that the pre-Columbian Maya bent gender. Performances appear to have been status shifting in some instances and situational in others. In the case of the former, several politically prominent women were associated hieroglyphically with warfare. Kathryn Reese-Taylor et  al. (2009, p.  40) have noted, “Inscriptions reveal that women, like men, can carry the kaloomte’ title, perhaps the most high-ranking title in Maya politics.” In support, we may look to the case of Lady K’abel, a late-seventh-century ruler of El Perú-Waka (NW Guatemala) who hailed originally from Calakmul. Stela 34 at El Perú-Waka identifies her as Ix Kaloomte’, a title that translates as Lady Warlord or Lady Overlord (Guenter 2014). She is depicted in ceremonial attire connoting military rulership—a beaded net skirt, grand headdress, battle shield, and bow (Reese-Taylor et al. 2009; Wanyerka 1996). Archaeologists’ discovery of Lady K’abel’s tomb (Burial 61) in 2012 has confirmed her powerful position (Freidel et  al. 2012). In addition to these royal examples of warrior queens, there is mortuary evidence to suggest that ritual gender bending occurred at all socioeconomic levels in Maya society, albeit significantly smaller in scale. In my own work on burials throughout the Three Rivers Region in northwestern Belize (n  =  130), one unique interment at the Dos Barbaras site, a female-bodied ancestor with a stingray spine placed at her torso, may have ritually let blood while alive to mediate between supernatural and terrestrial spheres (Geller 2005). Such performances would have ensured her position as a prominent and powerful member of the rural community. Whether impactive at the level of the larger community or local household, these instances underscore that a heteronormative approach is ill-equipped for explaining the variability of socio-sexual lives in Maya society.


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Additionally, my biohistoric study of the Samuel G. Morton Crania Collection has identified native North American warrior women who lived and died during the first half of the nineteenth century (Geller 2017). They exemplify female-bodied gender variance, which as Will Roscoe (1998) has discussed also encapsulates queens, women chiefs, manly hearted women, and/or two-spirits who were anatomically female. But, to clarify, the emphasis is not necessarily on categorization. Rather, the challenge is to understand the sociopolitical processes that begot, normalized, stigmatized, or eradicated gender-variant persons. Hence, I have argued that in some native communities, female-bodied gender variance was a long-­ standing facet of a culture’s sex/gender system. It predated European conquest but was denounced during colonialism and Christianization. In other cases, sociopolitical circumstances connected to US nation-building provided a catalyst for indigenous peoples’ responses. These served as a survival strategy, not a social norm or transgression, in the face of extreme structural and interpersonal violence.

To Conclude... To conclude... to demonstrate that socio-sexual diversity has existed through time and space, bioarchaeologists could look for those individuals whose identities were defined by a queer status according to our contemporary understanding of the concept—the transsexual caveman, for instance. Presentism would ultimately undergird these efforts, however. Rather, a far more productive approach is to situate socio-sexual identities and interactions within cultural-historical contexts and to understand the processes at work in their formation and reconstitution. Such instances are not anomalous though they do require researchers to attend to the ambiguous and identify the idiosyncratic. So, and to return to the ellipsis, like the speech balloon emoji that is ubiquitous in these days of electronic communication, I call for an end to commonsensical presumptions about socio-sexual lives as framed by dichotomy rather than diversity. And I encourage bioarchaeologists to initiate dialogue and research about gender variance in their studies, carefully communicate their finds in both popular and scholarly forums, and not shy away from the political ramifications of their research. Proliferation of examples of the myriad ways to be human might then allow us—the scholars who produce information about the past and the nonspecialist audiences who consume it—to think more critically about the present for a better future.

References Alexander, R., & Noonan, K. (1979). Concealment of ovulation, parental care, and human social evolution. In N. Chagnon & W. Irons (Eds.), Evolutionary biology and human social behavior: An anthropological perspective (pp. 402–435). North Scituate: Duxbury Press. Appadurai, A. (1990). Disjuncture and difference in the global cultural economy. Public Culture, 2(2), 1–24.

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Appadurai, A. (1996). Modernity at large: Cultural dimensions of globalization. Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota Press. Arnold, B. (1991). The deposed princess of Vix: The need for an engendered European prehistory. In D.  Walde & N.  D. Willows (Eds.), The archaeology of gender: Proceedings of the 22nd annual conference of the archaeological Association of the University of Calgary (pp. 366– 374). Calgary: University of Calgary Archaeological Association. Becking, A. G., Bram Tuinzing, D., Joris Hage, J., & Gooren, L. J. G. (2007). Transgender feminization of the facial skeleton. Clinics in Plastic Surgery, 34(3), 557–564. Berkowitz, D. (2009). Journalism in the broader cultural mediascape. Journalism, 10(3), 290–292. Blackwood, E. (1984). Sexuality and gender in certain native American tribes: The case of cross-­ gender females. Signs, 10(1), 27–42. Bush, G. W. (2007). Public papers of the presidents of the United States: George W. Bush, 2004, Book I--January 1 to June 30, 2004. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office. Driskill, Q.-L., Finley, C., Gilley, B.  J., & Morgensen, S.  L. (Eds.). (2011). Queer indigenous studies: Critical interventions in theory, politics, and literature. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. Freidel, D., Pérez, J. C., Navarro-Farr, O., Robles, G. P. (2012). Report: The Queen of El Perú-­ Waka’  – New Discoveries in an Ancient Maya Temple. Retrieved Feburay 22, from 2017 Waka,%20Guatemala.pdf Gavrilets, S. (2012). Human origins and the transition from promiscuity to pair-bonding. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(25), 9923–9928. Geller, P. L. (2005). Skeletal analysis and theoretical complications. World Archaeology, 37(4), 597–609. Geller, P.  L. (2008). Conceiving sex: Fomenting a feminist bioarchaeology. Journal of Social Archaeology, 8(1), 113–138. Geller, P.  L. (2009). Bodyscapes, biology, and heteronormativity. American Anthropologist, 111(4), 504–516. Geller, P. L. (2017). The bioarchaeology of socio-sexual lives: Queering common sense about sex, gender, and sexuality. New York: Springer. Geller, P. L., & Suri, M. S. (2014). Relationality, corporeality and bioarchaeology: Bodies qua bodies, bodies in context. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 24(3), 499–512. Guenter, S.  P. (2014). The epigraphy of El Perú-Waka’. In O.  Navarro-Farr & M.  Rich (Eds.), Archaeology at El Perú-Waka’: Ancient Maya performances of ritual, memory, and power (pp. 147–166). Tucson: University of Arizona Press. Halberstam, J. (1998). Female masculinity. Durham: Duke University Press. Hollimon, S. (1997). The third gender in native California: Two-spirit undertakers among the Chumash and their neighbors. In C. Claassen & R. Joyce (Eds.), Women in prehistory: North America and Mesoamerica (pp. 173–188). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Hollimon, S. (2000). Archaeology of the ‘aqi: Gender and sexuality in prehistoric Chumash society. In R. Schmidt & B. Voss (Eds.), Archaeologies of sexuality (pp. 179–196). London and New York: Routledge. Hollimon, S. (2001). Warfare and gender in the northern plains: Osteological evidence of trauma reconsidered. In B. Arnold & N. Wicker (Eds.), Gender and the archaeology of death (pp. 179– 194). Lanham: AltaMira Press. Hollimon, S. (2006). The archaeology of nonbinary genders in native North American societies. In S. Nelson (Ed.), Handbook of gender in archaeology (pp. 435–450). Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press. Jacobs, S.-E., Thomas, W., & Lang, S. (1997). Introduction. In S. Jacobs, W. Thomas, & S. Lang (Eds.), Two-spirit people: Native American gender identity, sexuality, and spirituality (pp. 1–18). Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press. Kramer, K., & Russell, A. (2015). Was monogamy a key step on the hominin road? Reevaluating the monogamy hypothesis in the evolution of cooperative breeding. Evolutionary Anthropology, 24(2), 73–83.


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Larsen, C. S. (2003). Equality for the sexes in human evolution? Early hominid sexual dimorphism and implications for mating systems and social behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 100(16), 9103–9104. Lovejoy, C. O. (1981). The origin of man. Science, 211(4480), 341–350. Morgensen, S.  L. (2010). Settler homonationalism: Theorizing settler colonialism within queer modernities. GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, 16(1-2), 105–131. Morgensen, S. L. (2011). Spaces between us: Queer settler colonialism and indigenous decolonization. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Pinsky, V. (1989). Commentary: A critical role for the history of archaeology. In V.  Pinsky & A.  Wylie (Eds.), Critical traditions in contemporary archaeology: Essays in the philosophy, history and socio-politics of archaeology, New directions in archaeology (pp.  88–91). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Reese-Taylor, K., Mathews, P., Guernsey, J., & Fritzler, M. (2009). Warrior queens among the classic Maya. In H. Orr & R. Koontz (Eds.), Blood and beauty: Organized violence in the art and archaeology of Mesoamerica and Central America (pp. 39–72). Los Angeles: Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press. Reno, P., Meindl, R., McCollum, M., & Owen Lovejoy, C. (2003). Sexual dimorphism in Australopithecus afarensis was similar to that of modern humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 100(16), 9404–9409. Roscoe, W. (1998). Changing ones: Third and fourth genders in native North America. New York: St. Martin’s Press. Stocking, G. W., Jr. (1965). On the limits of ‘presentism’ and ‘historicism’ in the historiography of the behavioral sciences. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 1(3), 211–218. Stryker, S. (2008). Transgender history. Berkeley: Seal Press. Turek, J.  (2016). Sex, transsexuality and archaeological perception of gender identities. Archaeologies, 12(3), 340–358. United States vs. Windsor 2013 570 U.S. Supreme Court. 2013. opinions/12pdf/12-307_6j37.pdf Wanyerka, P. (1996). A fresh look at a Maya masterpiece. Cleveland Studies in the History of Art, 1, 72–97. Weismantel, M. (2013). Towards a transgender archaeology: A queer rampage through prehistory. In S. Stryker & A. Aizura (Eds.), The transgender studies reader 2 (Vol. 2, pp. 319–334). New York: Routledge. Williams, C. (2014). Transgender. TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, 1(1-2), 232–234.

Chapter 11

The Body-as-Evidence Paradigm in Domestic and International Forensic Anthropology Dawnie W. Steadman

Introduction As discussed in Chap. 2, violence is a “sexy” subject and bioarchaeologists are keen to argue about the precipitating factors of prehistoric conflict, the styles of warfare engagement, and of course the human costs (e.g., Allen and Arkush 2008; Frayer and Martin 1997; Keeley 1997; Milner 1999; Willey 1990; see also Chap. 4). In turn, popular writers take snippets of bioarchaeological evidence to promote a particular political viewpoint or build a sensational story about our “primitive past” (Pinker 2011; Diamond 1999, 2005). Other scientists are also prone to misrepresent bioarchaeological work in order to boast a nonanthropological theory about human violence (e.g., Gomez et al. 2016). Thus, despite excellent scholarship in the field, bioarchaeologists continue to lag behind others in presenting our evidence and interpretation of human violence in an accessible way to the wider community despite a clear public appetite for the topic. While stories of ancient violence can be captivating, there is perhaps even a greater public interest in contemporary violence that has been exploited by every facet of the media, including video games, news shows, television series, and even reality shows. Of particular interest is the fascination with how violence is addressed in the criminal justice system and especially how forensic scientists “catch” criminals with seemingly supernatural technologies that never allow a bad guy to get by with a dirty deed. Underlying the criminal justice process in reality, but brought to the fore in media attention, is the “body-as-evidence” paradigm, whereby physical evidence from the deceased or otherwise violated body is given greater value than other forms of evidence, especially witness testimony. This highlighted reality of the paradigm creates a fundamental public misunderstanding of the scientific limitations of the forensic subdisciplines, including forensic anthropology. Such D. W. Steadman (*) Department of Anthropology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA e-mail: [email protected] © Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019 J. E. Buikstra (ed.), Bioarchaeologists Speak Out, Bioarchaeology and Social Theory,



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­ isconceptions can create tension in the courtroom and unfulfilled expectations in m the international human rights arena. At the heart lies the inaccurate notion that the deceased human body holds hidden objective evidence that never errs yet can only be uncovered by a trained forensic scientist. This view rejects the fact that physical evidence, including that related to human skeletal remains, is always interpreted within specific contexts, including the complexity and diversity of large-scale human violence. Though the objective of this volume is to emphasize the responsibilities of the bioarchaeological community to the public, this chapter expands the discussion in a novel direction by focusing on the efforts and frustrations of forensic anthropologists to communicate publically about their work with contemporary human remains. Importantly, direct communication by forensic anthropologists in US forensic casework is always limited. Due to confidentiality and other ethical issues, the forensic anthropologist is never the primary contact person for any particular active forensic case. Instead, their scientific contribution to a case is relayed to the public through law enforcement media spokespersons or interpreted by the media during trial testimony. The latter can be especially problematic since the evidence provided in trials is guided by attorney questioning rather than by how an anthropologist may wish to convey information to the families and public directly. The impact of the media on how forensic anthropology is portrayed to the public has significant positive and negative benefits in US courts, but one aspect of anthropological work with contemporary remains that has not received critical attention in the public eye is forensic human rights investigation. Unlike contemporary US forensic cases, forensic anthropologists work directly with victims, families, and communities of mass atrocities, and direct communication of the humanitarian goals and scientific methods to achieve these goals is crucial. Unfortunately, such information is often poorly handled and can result in a combative and mistrustful relationship between communities and forensic scientists (Wagner 2008). Part of these misunderstandings is due to variation in local perceptions of science that, even in remote areas of the world, are still informed first and foremost by nonscientists and popular media. The first goal of this chapter is to examine the body-as-evidence paradigm at the convergence of the media and forensic anthropological casework in the United States, with special focus on the so-called CSI effect. The body-as-evidence notion in the US forensic system lays the framework for a better understanding of the challenges of public engagement with science during international human rights investigations. An interdisciplinary project in northern Uganda, comprised of forensic anthropologists, archaeologists, cultural anthropologists, sociologists, and attorneys, provides an example of the tension between the potential contributions of forensic anthropological science in investigating atrocities and the alternative ways of knowing that should also be considered when forensic anthropologists “speak out” on post-conflict investigations. The last section seeks to disentangle the roles of bioarchaeology and forensic anthropology that can further lead to confusion in the media.

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The “CSI Effect” While various aspects of forensic science, such as fingerprint identifications, have been around for centuries, I argue that the genesis of the current public craving for forensic science and criminal justice is the O.J. Simpson trial. In 1995, Americans were riveted to their televisions for 253 days and saw lawyers almost literally rip apart forensic evidence as accusations of evidence tampering and ill-fitting gloves glowed on our television sets. Americans became hooked on how forensics works, how forensic scientists think, and how to consider new technologies such as DNA. To the rescue was “CSI,” which first appeared on American television in 2000. The gore, graphics, and special effects (e.g., a bullet’s-eye view as the projectile passes through a human body) and magical intuition of the “CSI” characters cemented the public notion of the body-as-evidence paradigm as a central tenet in forensic science. Each week the dead body provided objective evidence gathered by objective scientists that disarticulated alibis and brought justice upon the guilty. “CSI” served forensic science well in providing a positive spin on the science following the O.J. debacle but has had several long-lasting effects on actual forensic science, especially in the courtroom. The authenticity of the so-called CSI effect is debated among forensic scientists, attorneys, and media experts (see Schweitzer and Saks 2007; Podlas 2006), but most agree that the last 20 years of medial portrayals of forensic science has indeed influenced the general public, many of whom become jurors. The “CSI effect” is a set of expectations by the jury about what evidence should be collected and how it should be handled. The “CSI” television show (and others like it) also displays debunked evidence, such as bite marks, as accepted science. Unfortunately, such pseudo-evidence is still introduced in court. Since jurors saw these examples on television, they may be more willing to accept such flawed testimony as scientific. Particularly impactful, however, is the perception of DNA evidence as incontrovertible and rapid, neither of which is true. The mantra “You can’t fake DNA!” dismisses the fact that not all DNA results are definitive, that DNA mixtures are difficult to interpret, and that the statistics of DNA “matches” is itself an evolving science. However, juries do indeed expect DNA to be presented despite other methods of identification or its relevance to the case. Not long ago, a case on which I had worked was being prepared for court. The identity of the victim was never in dispute, and the major issues in the case were how and when he had been killed. Therefore, I was surprised when the attorney wanted me to send a tooth of the victim for DNA analysis before trial. His concern was that the jury would view the forensic process as incomplete if he did not produce DNA evidence. While most jurors in the United States have not completed a college education (Hans et  al. 2007; Lehmann and Smith 2013), they quickly become an aggregate of 12 “experts” who critically evaluate what forensic tests were and were not done in a case guided only by their years of television-viewing experience. Perceived impacts of this effect are unreasonable expectations of what the evidence can tell us, intolerance of equivocal conclusions (there is always a clear


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outcome on “CSI”), and demand for specialized tests, including DNA, even when it is unwarranted in the case. A survey by Judge Shelton (2008), a felony trial judge, found that as many as 46% of respondents “expected to see some kind of scientific evidence in every criminal case,” while DNA is expected by 73% of respondents for cases of rape (see also Shelton et  al. 2009). While television has introduced the public to forensic scientific techniques, neither scientists nor the media have taught potential jurors when such evidence is appropriate. Decisions to include unnecessary DNA tests are not only expensive and time-consuming but may also devalue other valid scientific identification techniques in the public eye. Forensic anthropologists have more than just the “CSI effect” to contend with, however. In 2006, I gave a lecture on forensic anthropology and forensic human rights investigations to a highly educated, nonanthropology audience. They listened attentively as I described how mass graves of missing Republicans were located in Spain and demonstrated how forensic anthropologists could interpret the gunshot wounds and blunt force trauma to reconstruct how these individuals were illegally executed. As I ended my lecture, the feeling in the room was appropriately somber, and I called on an eager woman near the front of the room wishing to ask a question. Expecting an inquiry about the impact of forensic scientific exhumations in Spain on local communities and the recovery of historic memory, I instead heard: “This is all great, but can you tell us how the Angelator works?” I had no idea what she was talking about. When I asked her to explain, the audience became quite animated as several people eagerly helped her explain to the clueless professor that the Angelator was a type of hologram machine that Temperance Brennan used to produce complete three-dimensional images of a person from a small bone fragment. The room became vibrant as people murmured to each other about the most recent episode of the television show, “Bones.” I felt deflated. I had told the story of the missing in Spain with passion and had endeavored to make the scientific aspect accessible to the audience, yet I quickly found that my story was usurped by that of an audacious television show that was loose with scientific facts and portrayed the lead character, a forensic anthropologist, as an antisocial narcissist. While I now possess the communication tools to bring the conversation back to the exciting technologies that actually do exist, fictional accounts of the field remain a distraction to the public. Besides raising unrealistic expectations of scientific deliverables, another common theme of the media orgy of forensic science is the body-as-evidence paradigm, which preferences the body over other ways of knowing, especially witness testimony. Under a strict paradigm, descriptions of what one saw or heard, for instance, is viewed as refutable, subjective, and mutable, yet physical evidence, such as a dead body, is incapable of subterfuge. Both “Bones” and “CSI”-like shows fully embrace the body-as-evidence paradigm. The easily quotable one-liners like “‘Cause dead flies tell no lies” by character Gil Grissom (CSI “Secrets and Flies” episode, 2005) are far easier to convey to the general public than a more nuanced interpretation of the context of a scene or the intricacies of an entomological analysis. A famous quote by Clyde Snow, “Although they (bones) speak softly, they never lie and they never forget” (Joyce and Stover 1991, p. 144), also shows the power of the body to bear witness to its abuse (though I would argue that Dr. Snow likely did

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not mean this in an essentialist sense). Nonetheless, an image of a contact gunshot wound to the back of the cranium is clearly indicative of homicide to a jury. Likewise, images of mass graves bring the scale of human atrocities to worldwide attention. However, what may be hidden when “the bones speak” in these examples is that the gunshot wound to the back of the head was accidental when a child found his mothers’ gun, and the mass grave was a burial of soldiers who died in a legitimate battle between two nations. While the bones do indeed speak, the context is integral to their story, which, if not interpreted properly, could be profoundly misrepresented. The body-as-evidence paradigm is regrettably well entrenched in western forensic systems, yet I would argue that it is even more problematic in international human rights contexts. Historical documents, oral histories, family stories, and witness testimony may be acceptable ways of knowing in certain cultures that may be privileged over the “objective” stories provided by foreign scientists using technologies that may not be understood or accepted. In other words, sufficient evidence of a crime may well lie outside of the scientific review of the body in the eyes of a community ripped apart by atrocities.

International Human Rights Work As discussed further below, a significant distinction between bioarchaeology and forensic anthropology in the United States is the legal context in which forensic anthropologists work. The enhanced legal responsibility and scope of the forensic anthropologist is even more apparent in international human rights investigations. Operating under both foreign national and international humanitarian and human rights laws, forensic anthropologists (including forensic archaeologists for the purposes of this chapter) must navigate local medicolegal and judicial policies, which are often fractured or even nonexistent following conflict, while maintaining high scientific integrity. It is also imperative that forensic anthropologists receive training in cultural anthropology, particularly ethnography. Forensic anthropologists involved in long-term humanitarian projects work daily with communities directly affected by atrocities. Interviews with victims and families may not only elicit information about the atrocities and the location of the missing but also determine whether such investigations cause more psychosocial harm than good (Hepner et al. in press). These are not descendent communities but rather primary witnesses and victims. Forensic anthropologists may interview family members about purported locations of mass graves or identifying features of their missing loved one, when and where they were last seen, by whom they were abducted, who was with them, and other intimate details of the person they love and their last living moments. This may be the first time the family member has ever talked about these issues, as they were never asked or never felt safe in doing so, or it may be the hundredth occasion, but the emotions are always raw. While ethnographic training is crucial to this work, the ability to withstand the sometimes suffocating blanket of human atrocities one


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learns about in the field and still “function” is based on experience and an unteachable ability to compartmentalize the experience in order to complete the professional responsibilities. Unfortunately, the body-as-evidence paradigm is well maintained on the international stage that creates additional challenges to leveling expectations of what forensic science can provide to post-conflict communities.

International Bodies Between 1995 and 2005, the Acholi people of northern Uganda found themselves between two armed adversaries, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) headed by Joseph Kony and the army of the Government of Uganda (GoU). Kony, himself Acholi, became the self-proclaimed theological leader and “purifier” of the Acholi people, as well as the head of the uprising against the repressive Ugandan government. As part of his rebellion against the Ugandan Army, Kony’s LRA conducted raids of villages throughout Acholiland, abducting children, setting villages ablaze, mutilating some, and killing the rest. On the pretense that certain villages were supporting the LRA, the army also massacred villagers, making it difficult to distinguish GoU atrocities from those committed by the LRA (Hopwood 2011). The GoU also mandated that all Acholi move to internal displacement camps, or IDPs, to protect the civilians from the LRA. However, the LRA still attacked the IDPs, and government soldiers regularly abused and killed the civilians in their care. The enduring legacies of the conflict are an estimated 66,000 abducted children used as child soldiers and sex slaves, over two million people who were internally displaced, and an untold number of missing Acholi (Eichstaedt 2009). Thousands of clandestine graves and surface scatters of human remains dot the landscape of Acholiland. The Acholi have traditional cosmological relations with the dead whereby “the dead are not vacated in Acholiland but retain a presence and an agency among the living” (Hepner et al. in press). These unidentified bodies and unattended spirits, “Cen,” create great distress for the living, causing nodding disease in children, killing people, livestock and crops, and hauntings (Finnström 2008; Neuner et al. 2012). The Acholi wish to appease the displaced and angry spirits with traditional ceremonies, yet these ceremonies rely on knowing the identity of the victims and reburying them on ancestral land. While forensic methods can assist in this process, we must realize that the physical evidence of the body is not the only way of producing knowledge of the massacres. The spirits tell of their fate by haunting the living, elders are relied upon to pass down the oral histories of the events, and of course battered, mutilated, and abused individuals are walking and talking testimonies of the ravages of the war (Eichstaedt 2009). Graves, even nontraditional, improper graves, are sacred to some, and exhumation amounts to desecration (Rosenblatt 2015). Disturbing the bones, despite good intentions, nonetheless may upset the soul or spirit. Thus, while the technocratic process of forensic science seeks to deliver truth and justice, these goals may be at odds with the concepts of sacredness, spirituality, social cohesion, and relief valued by the communities and families. Our

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ongoing ethnographic work in Uganda is attempting to assess if or at what point in the process of exhumations of the improperly buried dead might cause more psychosocial harm than healing (Hepner et al. in press). To do so, we must communicate our science to the people in a way that allows them to make informed decisions about exhumations. Assuming one goal of the exhumations is to determine the identities of the victims and document the nature of their deaths, forensic anthropological interpretation of the bodies-as-evidence paradigm undoubtedly has much to offer families and the [transitional] justice system. Ligatures, bullets and bullet wounds, shell casings, personal effects, etc. provide the context of the killings, and a small proportion of those excavated will be identified by DNA or other means (Congram and Steadman 2008; Steadman and Haglund 2005; Stover and Shigekane 2002). With so much information that forensic science can offer by exhuming graves and identifying bodies, why wouldn’t families and communities be eager to pursue this purely scientific line of inquiry into the past? Families may be resistant to or outright oppose exhumations for many reasons, including anger and distrust of the government, fear, or the belief that a loved one is imprisoned, escaped, or psychologically damaged rather than dead. Perhaps the most difficult to understand reason families may oppose exhumations is that which flies in the face of the body-as-evidence trope. Those who oppose forensic exhumations may privilege symbolism and metaphor over physical evidence. The disappeared body is seen not only as sacred but also as a free, atavistic, inspirational, and spiritual being. As argued by Hebe de Bonafini of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo in Argentina, “We are against these exhumations because we don’t want our children to die. Our children cannot be enclosed in tombs, because they are free and revolutionary” (Página 12, 22 December 1989). To exhume, to name the body, to rebury, and to gain “closure” is tantamount to forgetting the person and his or her struggle. The bones themselves hold no meaning (Robben 2000, p.  106). These views are powerful and sometimes nonnegotiable (Crossland 2000, 2009; Robben 2000; Sant Cassia 2005; Sanford 2003; Moon 2013), but they are notably absent in the media treatment of exhumations in favor of images of the bodies in the grave with voice-­ overs describing the evidence provided by the forensic experts. When public attention is turned to opposing organizations and individuals, they are often characterized as “fringe,” “traumatized,” “mad with grief,” or holding onto a false hope (Crossland 2002). Thus, forensic anthropologists who have a platform should shoulder the responsibility for providing this alternative narrative of what missing bodies may mean. This may be seen as antithetical to forensic anthropologists since we cannot “speak” for the bones if we cannot hold them, but in reality, opposition to exhumations is no less political, idealistic, or rhetorical than scientific arguments in favor of exhumations. “Meaningful knowledge about the past is only possible when scientific positivism assumes its proper, subordinate place within the more profound application of historical analysis” (Wilson 2001, p. 58 referring to the South Africa Truth and Reconciliation Committee). Moreover, privileging scientific evidence of the body over witness testimonies and memories because the former is objective and inscrutable and the latter is subjective and fallible completely ignores the fact that


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physical evidence is also fallible, selective, narrated, and mutable. According to Renshaw (2011, p.  14), “…bodies and objects from mass graves are not simply ‘revealed’ during exhumations but are continuously represented and framed and support particular historical narratives.” This notion of interpretation is echoed by Rosenblatt (2015, p. 65) in the context of excavation of sacred Jewish sites: “Forensic evidence is neither fully neutral nor purely objective. It enters a landscape of contested narratives and is interpreted differently depending on those narratives; it thus provides uneven and unpredictable political and moral capital depending on how stakeholders deploy it.” Thus, if forensic anthropologists want to “speak out” publically on human rights investigations, they should do so by explicitly addressing such multiple perspectives.

 ioarchaeologists and Forensic Anthropologists: Sisters B but Not Twins A third point concerning the public confusion of the role of forensic anthropology in the local and international criminal justice system is the lack of subfield boundaries within biological anthropology. Like many biological anthropologists, my research interests cover several areas of skeletal biology, specifically bioarchaeology (including paleopathology), forensic anthropology, and forensic human rights investigations. The theory and methods in bioarchaeology most certainly enrich my work in forensic anthropology, and the rigor of forensic science training has influenced how I approach bioarchaeological problems. While bioarchaeology and forensic anthropology share a solid foundation in skeletal biology and anthropological theory, there are crucial differences that should be recognized both within and outside the field. Bioarchaeologists work with prehistoric or historic cemetery samples and frequently take a population approach to understanding health and trauma in the past. While bioarchaeologists can take an osteobiographic perspective by focusing upon an individual or a small group, the goal is to explain the health (or other) issues among a larger group of which the individual is a part. In contrast, most criminal cases are individual-based whereby the primary goals are to locate and recover a missing person, identify the individual, provide information concerning the cause of death, and estimate the postmortem interval. As Ubelaker (2016) discusses, the two fields cross-fertilize well. For instance, bioarchaeologists benefit from forensic experience and research of the biological profile and trauma, while forensic anthropologists profit from bioarchaeological taphonomy studies, particularly to assist with determining the antiquity of human remains. Both fields contribute to our overall understanding of human variation – by examining large samples of past populations and by studying contemporary individuals for whom the life history can be known upon identification. Despite this exchange and dialogue, however, and the fact that most forensic anthropologists have significant bioarchaeological experience, the term “forensic

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bioarchaeology” should be avoided in the anthropological literature as it can cause confusion within the discipline and in the popular media (Skinner et al. 2003; Jessee and Skinner 2005; Martin and Anderson 2013). Coined by Skinner et al. (2003) to discuss the great value of archaeological contributions in forensic human rights investigations, the term has since been used to intentionally blur the lines between forensic and bioarchaeological contexts (e.g., Martin and Anderson 2013). While this may be harmless in an academic sense, such obfuscation of subdisciplinary boundaries can contribute to the confusion of the roles and responsibilities of forensic anthropologists in the public sphere, including potential jurors. While “forensic” is based in the Latin word for debate or forum and can apply to many contexts, the current English usage refers specifically to the “application of scientific knowledge to legal problems” (Merriam-Webster 2017). Thus, a significant difference between the two fields is the level of responsibility of the forensic anthropologist to the medicolegal system, including the national and international courts. While bioarchaeologists have testified in civil courts for NAGPRA-related issues to fight to shed scientific light on the past, the battle over Kennewick Man being one example (e.g., Burke et  al. 2016; Owsley and Jantz 2014; Walker and Owsley 2012), the criminal court is a different arena whereby the testimony presented has a direct impact on the liberty of the defendant and the sense of justice felt by families and victims. Moreover, interpretations of skeletal and other physical evidence must occur within a narrow framework that is guided by state and federal rules of evidence. Most significantly, testimony must be relevant and reliable, whereby the methods employed must have associated errors and been peer reviewed (Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals 1993; Christensen and Crowder 2009; Grivas and Komar 2008). Thus, methods used for the biological profile in forensic anthropology may differ from those used in bioarchaeological studies given the need for methods based on appropriate reference samples and known errors and then validated (Langley and Tersigni-Tarrant 2017). Extended theoretical arguments that are common in bioarchaeological works, such as the inappropriate use of “race,” or the meaning of stress markers on the skeleton, should not be contained within forensic anthropology reports. Therefore, while bioarchaeological interpretation of the biological profile and trauma of past populations can most certainly be enhanced by knowledge of forensic methods, the application of such methods in a bioarchaeological context is not “forensic.”

Speaking Out in Forensic Anthropology: An Action Plan The attempts to communicate forensic anthropology to the public have been in the form of case studies books written by professional forensic anthropologists about their most interesting cases, fictional novels by Kathy Reichs and Bill Bass that allow poetic license with the science, and of course the “Bones” television series. Others have written personal accounts of work in human rights venues, which may include ad hominem attacks of team members or present poor field methods as


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standard operating procedure. While we can produce critiques of these products, at least they are doing something. And if we criticize the current shortcomings of the existing public works of the field, what do we suggest instead? One plan of action is for anthropologists to work directly with science writers to help us craft and package our scientific work for better public consumption. I personally loathe speaking to the media and regularly turn down requests, yet I recognize that presenting a paper at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences only satisfies part of my responsibility as a scientist. While I am accomplishing due diligence in satisfying the funding agencies by presenting results to the scientific community and somewhat like-minded people, I am not providing an accessible narrative to the general public. Further, in my role as director of the Forensic Anthropology Center, I have learned to be proactive in defining the narrative of the work we produce. If I do not, I quickly lose control of the message, and the tone can turn macabre and sensational, which is everything we work against. So I partner with science writers who can work with me to frame the research and results in a responsible and accessible manner (e.g., Goode 2016). Documentaries also provide a venue for anthropologists to partner with responsible journalists to better tell their story and potentially speak out against a mainstream or official story. Responsible documentaries, such as “Following Antigone: Forensic Anthropology and Human Rights Investigations” (EAAF 2002), can contextualize and de-historicize the problem and the process of forensic science in meaningful and impactful ways (see Stover and Peress 1998 for an example of photojournalism). Discussing (speaking out on) human rights investigations in public contexts is a delicate proposition. We are working with and among people who have been politically marginalized, oppressed, and emotionally and physically victimized for decades. They are not past peoples whose experience can be extrapolated or summarized based on physical evidence and deep theoretical discussions but rather are living testimonies of a recent and violent history. The promise of forensic science “objectivity” and western notions of justice may be less valued than other ways of knowing. As an example, following a meeting with a community who did not immediately embrace the forensic pitch that we could deliver an objective interpretation of what happened at a particular massacre site, I overheard a colleague say, “You can lead a horse to water…” suggesting that we can give the families the information but cannot make them accept it. While the comment was said in a moment of frustration and was meant to belittle the scientific acumen of the community, I wondered if the families felt the same about us. To many affected communities and families, we are the ones who do not “get it.” The empirical evidence of bones and bullets may not tell a more powerful story to them than the enduring power of the spirit of the dead to effect social change or the fear of the unhappy dead if exhumations bring further distress, desecration, and humiliation to the spirits. So we find ourselves within an unnecessary schism whereby forensic science emphasizes only truth and justice, while communities seek sanctity, respect, social cohesion, and political stability. To reduce this rift, forensic anthropologists must not just “leave room” and “accommodate” spiritual concepts and rituals but recognize that these

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ways of knowing may be privileged over others and work to integrate them into the forensic effort in a manner that does not compromise the scientific standards of the field.

References Allen, M. W., & Arkush, E. N. (2008). The archaeology of warfare: Prehistories of raiding and conquest. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida. Burke, H., Smith, C. E., Lippert, D., Watkins, J. E., & Zimmerman, L. J. (Eds.). (2016). Kennewick Man: Perspectives on the ancient one. London: Routledge. Christensen, A. M., & Crowder, C. (2009). Evidentiary standards for forensic evidence. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 54, 1211–1216. Congram, D., & Steadman, D. W. (2008). Distinguished guests or agents of ingérence: Foreign participation in Spanish Civil War grave excavations. Complutum, 19(2), 161–173. Crossland, Z. (2000). Buried lives: Forensic archaeology and the disappeared in Argentina. Archaeological Dialogues, 7(2), 146–159. Crossland, Z. (2002). Violent spaces: Conflict over the reappearance of Argentina’s disappeared. In J. Schofield, C. Beck, & W. G. Johnson (Eds.), The archaeology of 20th century conflict (pp. 115–131). London: Routledge. Crossland, Z. (2009). Of clues and signs: The dead body and its evidential traces. American Anthropologist, 111(1), 69–80. Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals. (1993). 509 U.S. 579 (92–102). de Bonafini, H. (1989, December 22). Madres de Plaza de Mayo. Pagina 12. Diamond, J.  (1999). Guns, germs, and steel: The fates of human societies. New  York: W.  W. Norton & Company. Diamond, J. (2005). Collapse: How societies choose to fail or succeed. New York: Penguin. Eichstaedt, P. (2009). First kill your family: Child soldiers of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army. Chicago, IL: Chicago Review Press. Equipo Argentino Anthropologia Forense (EAAF). (2002). Following antigone: Forensic anthropology and human rights investigations. An EAAF-WITNESS video production. Finnström, S. (2008). Living with bad surroundings: War and everyday moments in northern Uganda. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Frayer, D. W., & Martin, D. L. (1997). Troubled times: Violence and warfare in the past. London: Routledge. Gomez, J. M., Verdu, M., Gonzalez-Megias, A., & Mendez, M. (2016). The phylogenetic roots of human lethal violence. Nature, 538(7624), 233–237. Goode, E. (2016, June 13). What dead pigs can’t teach us about C.S.I. New York Times. https:// Grivas, C.  R., & Komar, D.  A. (2008). Kumho, Daubert and the nature of scientific inquiry: Implications for forensic anthropology. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 53, 771–776. Hans, V. P., Kaye, D. H., Dann, B. M., Farley, E. J., & Albertson, S. (2007). Science in the jury box: Jurors’ views and understanding of mitochondrial DNA evidence. Cornell Law Faculty Publications. Paper 82. Hepner, T., Steadman, D.  W., & Hanebrink, J.  R. (in press). Sowing the dead: Massacres and the missing in northern Uganda. In C. Anderson & D. Martin (Eds.), Blood in the villages: Bioarchaeological and forensic evidence for massacres. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida. Hopwood, J. (2011). We can’t be sure who killed us: Memory and memorialization in post-conflict northern Uganda. New York and Gulu: International Center for Transitional Justice and Justice and Reconciliation Project.


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Jessee, E., & Skinner, M. (2005). A typology of mass-grave related sites. Forensic Science International, 152(1), 55–59. Joyce, C., & Stover, E. (1991). Witnesses from the grave: The stories bones tell. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company. Keeley, L. H. (1997). War before civilization. New York: Oxford University Press. Langley, N.  R., & Tersigni-Tarrant, M.  T. A. (2017). Forensic anthropology: A comprehensive introduction (2nd ed.). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. Lehmann, J.-Y. K., & Smith, J. B. (2013). A multidimensional examination of jury composition, trial outcomes, and attorney preferences. Working Papers. papers/lehmann_smith_jurycomposition.pdf Martin, D.  L., & Anderson, C.  P. (2013). Introduction: Interpreting violence in the ancient and modern world when skeletonized bodies are all you have. In D. L. Martin & C. P. Anderson (Eds.), Bioarchaeological and forensic perspectives on violence: How violent death is interpreted from skeletal remains (pp. 3–13). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Merriam-Webster Dictionary. (2017). Retrieved February 27, 2017, from Milner, G. R. (1999). Warfare in prehistoric and early historic eastern North America. Journal of Archaeological Research, 7(2), 105–151. Moon, C. (2013). Interpreters of the dead: Forensic knowledge, human remains, and the politics of the past. Social and Legal Studies, 22(2), 149–169. Neuner, F., Pfeiffer, A., Schauer-Kaiser, E., Odenwald, M., Elbert, T., & Ertl, V. (2012). Haunted by ghosts: Prevalence, predictors and outcomes of spirit possession experiences among former child soldiers and war-affected civilians in Northern Uganda. Social Science & Medicine, 75, 548–545. Owsley, D. W., & Jantz, R. J. (2014). Kennewick Man: The scientific investigation of an ancient American skeleton. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution. Pinker, S. (2011). The better angels of our nature: Why violence has declined (Vol. 75). New York: Viking. Podlas, K. (2006). The CSI effect: Exposing the media myth. Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal, 16(429), 429–465. Renshaw, L. (2011). Exhuming loss: Memory, materiality and mass graves of the Spanish Civil War. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, Inc. Robben, A.  C. G.  M. (2000). The assault on basic trust: Disappearance, protest and reburial in Argentina. In A.  C. G.  M. Robben & M.  M. Suarez-Orozco (Eds.), Cultures under siege: Collective violence and trauma (pp. 70–101). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Rosenblatt, A. (2015). Digging for the disappeared: Forensic science after atrocity, Stanford studies in human rights. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Sanford, V. (2003). Buried secrets: Truth and human rights in Guatemala. New York: Palgrave MacMillan. Sant Cassia, P. (2005). Bodies of evidence: Burial, memory and the recovery of missing persons in Cyprus. New York: Berghahn Books. Schweitzer, N. J., & Saks, M. J. (2007). The CSI effect: Popular fiction about forensic science affects public expectations about real forensic science. Jurimetrics, 47, 357. Shelton, D. E. (2008). The ‘CSI effect’” does it really exist? NIJ Journal, 259. Retrieved March 25, 2017, from Shelton, D. E., Kim, Y. S., & Barak, G. (2009). An indirect-effects model of mediated adjudication: The CSI myth, the tech effect, and metropolitan jurors’ expectations for scientific evidence. Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law, 12(1), 1–43. Skinner, M. F., Alempijević, D., & Đuric-Srejić, M. (2003). Guidelines for international forensic bioarchaeology monitors of mass grave exhumations. Forensic Science International, 134(2-­ 3), 81–92. Steadman, D. W., & Haglund, W. D. (2005). The scope of anthropological contributions to human rights investigations. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 50(1), 1–8.

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Stover, E., & Peress, G. (1998). The graves: Srebrenica and Vukovar. Zurich, Switzerland: Scalo. Stover, E., & Shigekane, R. (2002). The missing in the aftermath of war: When do the needs of victims’ families and international war crimes tribunals clash? International Review of the Red Cross, 84(848), 845–866. Ubelaker, D.  H. (2016). The dynamic interface of bioarchaeology and forensic anthropology. Intersecciones en Antropología, 17(2), 5–38 Recuperado en 27 de noviembre de 2016. Wagner, S. E. (2008). To know where he lies: DNA technology and the search for Srebenica’s missing. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Walker, S., & Owsley, D. (2012). Their skeletons speak: Kennewick Man and the Paleoamerican world. Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books. Willey, P. (1990). Prehistoric warfare on the Great Plains: Skeletal analysis of the Crow Creek massacre victims. London: Routledge. Wilson, R. A. (2001). The politics of truth and reconciliation in South Africa: Legitimizing the post-apartheid state. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Chapter 12

Contributions of Mummy Science to Public Perception of the Past Kenneth C. Nystrom

Introduction From Tutankhamun’s curse to Ötzi’s murder mystery, the public is drawn to stories about mummies. During the nineteenth century, at the height of Egyptomania, people paid to watch Egyptian mummies being unwrapped (Aufderheide 2003); more recent incarnations include public exhibits like Body Worlds and Bodies: The Exhibition—twenty- to twenty-first-century places where people pay to see contemporary “mummified” bodies on display. Blockbuster Hollywood movies are made about mummies, and any one of us can be preserved in twenty-first-century version of Egyptian anthropogenic mummification.1 The question is, why are mummies so fascinating? A seemingly simple answer—because they are mummies—but one that draws in concepts from outside bioarcheology: western society’s morbid fascination with death and “corpse porn” (Foltyn 2008), how we as humans perceive/approach/deal with death, and so on. At least part of the answer lies in our unconscious tendency to re-personify and resocialize mummies because we are uncomfortable with bodies, particularly fleshed bodies, that are not social (Lambert and McDonald 2009; Robb 2009). From how we dress and modify our bodies to how global political economy and social inequality can impact health, our bodies are inherently social. When we encounter bodies (ancient or recent) that do not have a social presence, a process of resocialization begins (Robb 2009). The first basic steps involve the generation of essential demographic data (e.g., age and sex) but can rapidly expand to include much more detailed personal information, such as DNA analyses linking the deceased to modern populations (Keller et  al. 2012), facial reconstructions (Cesarani et  al. 2004), potentially embarrassing personal


K. C. Nystrom (*) Department of Anthropology, State University of New York at New Paltz, New Paltz, NY, USA e-mail: [email protected] © Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019 J. E. Buikstra (ed.), Bioarchaeologists Speak Out, Bioarchaeology and Social Theory,



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hygiene issues (Fornaciari et  al. 2011), and even one’s hair gel of choice (Kelly 2013; McCreesh et al. 2011). The mummy science literature contains many such examples of this resocialization. For instance, the mummy known as Ötzi the Tyrolean Iceman is arguably the most studied prehistoric individual in the world ever. From the animal skin used to make his boots, his last meal, the aches and pains he suffered in life, his likelihood for developing heart disease, to the motility of his sperm, we know a lot about him. These constructed narratives re-personalize mummies, revealing fine and sometimes intimate details (e.g., Ötzi as potentially being sterile,2 tattoos on the inner thigh of an Egyptian woman3), and in the process they make research accessible and interesting to the public. Unfortunately, stories about political intrigue, murder, sacrifice, and incest, however, gruesome or taboo, are more interesting to the public than stories about reconstructing postmarital residence patterns in prehistoric Peru based on dental metrics (Nystrom and Malcolm 2010) … hard to imagine, I know! What these narratives have not done is link to broader themes, such as embodiment, identity, and social bodies, which would more fully represent bioarchaeological research beyond the traditional boundaries of our field. So, how do we harness this fascination with mummies, link to these themes, and engage more directly with the public? We can begin by framing different questions, for example: • How does documenting the presence of tattoos on Ötzi contribute to our understanding of the social experiences of disease and illness in the past? • How does determining the parentage of Tutankhamun contribute to our understanding of ancient Egyptian social organization? • How does identifying what strain of tuberculosis infected eighteenth-century Hungarians contribute to our understanding of the social dimensions and determinants of disease? To illustrate such linking arguments, I present here three different areas of mummy studies (tattooing, Tutankhamun, and disease) that generate considerable public interest. I then discuss how we may be able to reframe the narrative, leading to a more publically engaged mummy science.

Embodied Identity: Mummies, Tattoos, and Health Embodiment, that humans are at once social beings and biological organisms, is a widely used concept in the social sciences, including public health (Krieger 2005), sociology (Shilling 1993), biocultural biological anthropology (Gravlee 2009), and archaeology (Meskell and Joyce 2003). Employing embodiment as a structuring In this article, the mummies are described as being “stripped bare…” and it is noted with a female mummy has a tattoo “High up on her inner thigh….”

2 3

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principle means recognizing that we cannot separate our investigation of human biology from the influence of the social world. In bioarchaeology this recognition is encoded in the biocultural paradigm as we reconstruct the lived experiences of individuals or groups (Scott and Buckley 2010; Stojanowski and Knudson 2014; Temple and Larsen 2007; Torres-Rouff et al. 2012; Watkins 2012). Embodiment can also take the form of body modification, how the body may be used as “a natural symbol with which to think about nature, society, and culture” (Scheper-Hughes and Lock 1987, p.  7). Individuals and groups can modify and manipulate their bodies in order to reflect aspects of their social world. For skeletal bioarchaeologists, artificial cranial and dental modifications are the clearest examples of embodiment in which irreversible body modification reflects the social world (Blom 2005; Tiesler 2012; Geller 2006). The surface of the body can be particularly powerful and dangerous (Douglas 1966), and tattooing of the skin therefore can be a potent means of marking (self-ascribed or imposed) aspects of social identity. Tattoos are fairly common and are very “present” in our public consciousness and experiences today, and it is therefore not surprising that tattooed mummies have broad public appeal.4 I would assume that most people’s experience with tattoos, including my own, reflects some aspect of an individual’s social identity, be it marking personal achievement or group membership. That is, tattoos communicate information to others. There is also a large body of ethnographic data that describes tattoos as having a therapeutic function. Lars Krutak (2013) has documented therapeutic tattoos among several modern groups, including the St. Lawrence Island Yupiget, native Greenlanders, the Ainu, Aleuts/Unangan in Alaska, and Chippewa of the Great Lakes area in North America. The scientific investigation of tattoos found on mummies has been influenced by western perceptions of functional differences based on stylistic characteristics. This has led to a basic classificatory dichotomy between therapeutic tattoos and those that are communicative and symbolic. Tattoos that are representational (e.g., animals) or abstract in design (e.g., geometric shapes) and would have been visible to others are interpreted as symbolic and communicative. Alternatively, simple (e.g., dots, dashes), hidden tattoos are commonly interpreted as therapeutic. The primary limitation of this dichotomy is that it has not been rigorously evaluated within specific cultural contexts (Krutak (n.d.); Nystrom and Piombino-Mascaii 2017).  Here is a short list of some news stories that features mummies and tattoos: 4


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Fig. 12.1  Horse tattoos from Pazyryk mummies (adapted from Argent 2013)

Tattoos on mummies from southern Siberia are wonderfully complex and beautiful (Fig. 12.1). They have also attracted considerable scholarly (Cheremisin 2007; Polosmak 2000) and popular attention. One of the earliest examples of the above functional dichotomy is evident in the interpretation offered by Sergei Rudenko (1970) for tattoos observed on a Pazyryk male from the Ulagan plateau in the Altai Mountain region of southern Siberia. The elaborate animal tattoos that grace the arms and back of the mummy were interpreted as communicative, indicating an elite social status and/or the “mark of manhood” and that “all had some kind of magical significance not yet understood; they were perhaps protective (apotropaic) signs” (Rudenko 1970, p. 113). More recent analyses of similar animal tattoos elaborate on their fundamentally communicative function (Argent 2013; Iwe 2013; Yatsenko 2013). Alternatively, Rudenko (1970, p. 112) interprets the presence of two rows of dots running along the lower spine as therapeutic in function, citing ethnographic data and personal observation (Fig. 12.2). Without a doubt, the most extensively studied mummy with tattoos is Ötzi, the Tyrolean Iceman. Ötzi has a total of 61 tattoos arranged into 19 groups; all of them are short (7–40  mm), thin (1–3  mm) lines. As illustrated in Fig.  12.3, they were

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Fig. 12.2  Posterior view of the tattoos observed on the Pazyryk male mummy from barrow 2 (adapted from Argent 2013)

mostly found in the lower legs and posterior back, with isolated examples on the left wrist and right thorax (Samadelli et al. 2015). In 1993, 2 years after the discovery of the body, Luigi Capasso (1993, pp. 179–180) described the tattoos in this way: “In the Val Senales mummy, the pigmented marks are located in regions of the body that would normally have been covered (back, knee, ankle). This would exclude a “communicative” function for these tattoos…In our case, the pigmented marks on the skin are geometric, without curved segments, are simple, and contain neither anthropomorphic nor zoomorphic motifs. This allows us to rule out an ornamental function for the tattoos found on the Val Senales mummy.” Several years later, Leopold Dorfer et al. (1999, p. 1023) similarly concluded that the tattoos “do not seem to have decorative importance because they have a simple linear geometric shape and are located on the less visible parts of the body.” This therapeutic interpretation has influenced all subsequent research on Ötzi’s tattoos (Kean et al. 2013; Pabst et al. 2009; Samadelli et al. 2015). On the other side of the world, working in a context nearly 4000  years more recent, Maria Pabst et al. (2010) also differentiate tattoos based on design features and location. Examining a mummy from the Chiribaya culture of southern Peru (A.D. 1000–1300, Fig. 12.4), Pabst et al. (2010, p. 3256) characterized tattoos on the hands and forearms depicting animals or geometric designs as “decorative.” Alternatively, a series of overlapping circles on the neck that “would have been hidden by the neck hairs and the clothing during the lifetime of the bearer” (Pabst et al. 2010, p. 3257) are considered to be therapeutic in function.


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Fig. 12.3  The location of Ötzi’s tattoos (Samadelli et al. 2015)

Although popular stories about mummies with tattoos foster a sense of an exotic other and play upon “corpse porn” (Foltyn 2008),5 they also tend to homogenize the past. That is, there is a sense of cross-cultural universality regarding the stylistic features and function of tattoos. Despite temporal and cultural differences, representational tattoos are communicative, and geometric tattoos are therapeutic. This is often encouraged by a scientific literature that emphasizes a correspondence between the locations of therapeutic tattoos and Chinese acupuncture points (Dorfer et al. 1998; Kean et al. 2013; Moser et al. 1999; Pabst et al. 2009, 2010). Recently, a colleague and I (Nystrom and Piombino-Mascaii 2017) offered an alternative interpretive framework for the tattoos described by Pabst et al. (2010), which is based on the correspondence between the physical landscape and the body in traditional Andean worldviews; the head is the mountain peak, the trunk and legs are the central and lower slopes of the mountain, while the water that flows across the landscape is akin to blood (Bastien 1978). Among the Kallawaya healers of

 See footnote 3.


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Fig. 12.4 Representation of the tattoos on a Chiribaya mummy from southern Peru (Pabst et al. 2010)

modern Bolivia where this conception of the embodied landscape is evident, sickness was considered to be a “malfunctioning of the social and ecological order” (Bastien 1978, p. 129). As the mountain and the body are intimately linked, sickness in one reflects sickness in the other. This understanding of the embodied connection between landscape and body provides a foundation for a more holistic discussion of what circular tattoos on the back of a neck might have meant to the Chiribaya. In other words, the tattoos might be less about treating a pain in her neck than about addressing social disorder. Lars Krutak (n.d.) similarly provides culturally contextualized interpretations of tattoos among Arctic Indigenous groups. His main point is that “in Indigenous society medicinal tattoos often emerged in response to a myriad of spiritual beings—ancestral and nonhuman—that inhabited local landscapes and caused illness.” In these Indigenous groups, everything—nature, animals, humans, and spirits—was linked by and shared a motivating, vital essence. Disease and illness were considered to be due to the loss of parts of this vital essence or could be brought about by malevolent spirits. For instance, if the soul of a hunted animal was not treated properly, the hunter


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was vulnerable to spiritual vengeance. “First-kill” tattoos, consisting of small dots inscribed at joints, along with similar markings on the face, served to protect the hunter from these vengeful souls. Therapeutic tattoos thus served to protect the vulnerable from both physiological and metaphysical illness.

Control of the Body and Dead Body Politics There are two fundamental ways that bioarchaeologists examine the impact of politics on bodies. Some bioarchaeologists consider how socioeconomic and political control influences the living body through reconstruction of activity patterns (Klaus and Tam 2008), trauma rates (Buzon and Richman 2007; Chap. 3), and diet (Hastorf 1990; Chap. 7). Complimentarily, bioarchaeologists also investigate how the dead body may be treated, manipulated, and mobilized in death for various political agendas. Dead bodies occupy an interesting, powerful, and, at times, ambiguous, social space; they can retain a social identity and presence (Crandall and Martin 2014; Tung 2014), and their postmortem manipulation and mobilization can create powerful sociopolitical entities. There are several instances in which we can observe the intersection between what Katherine Verdery (1999) has dubbed “dead body politics” and biohistorical research on mummified remains of historical figures. Defined as the application of scientific investigative tools to the analysis of remains belonging to, or potentially associated with, historical figures (Komar and Buikstra 2008, p. 258), biohistorical investigations have broad public appeal and represent an arena where bioarchaeologists can engage more directly with the public (Stojanowski and Duncan 2017). They also offer us the opportunity to highlight the entanglement of politics, control of the dead body, and research ethics. Recent analyses and controversy surrounding the remains of King Tutankhamen serve as a good example of the juxtaposition between scientific narratives and those crafted for popular consumption. It also serves as a cautionary tale on the potential pitfalls of biohistorical research. Tutankhamen has been the focus of biohistorical research since his mummified remains were recovered by Howard Carter in 1922. The recovery of his mummified remains provided a focus, a “boundary object” (Moon 2013), around which his story was told, fueling both scientific research and public fascination. Tutankhamen’s mummified remains have only undergone official, direct examination three times: in 1968, 1978, and most recently in 2005 (Rühli and Ikram 2014). Many of the research questions focused on health issues (e.g., Paulshock 1980), his potentially violent death (e.g., Harrison and Gray 1973), and his parentage (e.g., Harrison et al. 1969; Connolly et al. 1976). The most recent examination, the King Tutankhamen Family Project (Hawass et  al. 2010) took up these questions again. They employed ­microsatellite markers to construct genetic fingerprints for 11 royal mummies associated with Tutankhamen’s lineage, ultimately concluding that his parents were KV55 (Akhenaten) and KV35YL, a brother-sister pair. Researchers also reexamined his remains for evidence of pathological and/or genetic conditions that may

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have afflicted the king during life and potentially contributed to his death. Based on computed tomography scans, the researchers evaluated the remains for evidence of gynecomastia (an endocrine disorder that leads to enlargement of the breasts in males), craniosynostoses, Marfan syndrome, Köhler disease, and malaria. They rejected the possibility of Marfan and gynecomastia, but they did find evidence for Köhler disease (a rare bone disorder that causes pain and swelling of the foot). Further, they suggest that he may have died due to a fractured leg complicated by malarial infection. Ultimately, they concluded that Tutankhamen “might be envisioned as a young but frail king…” (Hawass et al. 2010, p. 646). Overall, there is nothing particularly sensational or dramatic in these results. In the last months of 2014, however, the BBC aired a special entitled “Tutankhamen: The Truth Revealed” in which the above DNA and computed tomography data were presented with a dramatic flair. Although the documentary itself is sensationalistic, the cringe-inducing opening sentence of an online NBC News article reporting on the documentary encapsulates the sensationalization of the past that we must actively seek to avoid: “A new ‘virtual autopsy’ of Egypt’s King Tutankhamen portrays him as a broad-hipped, big-breasted, weak-boned pharaoh who died in his teens due to congenital problems brought on by incest …”.6 The predictable reaction to the documentary played out in part online. As one of the most visible and outspoken Egyptian archaeologists, Zahi Hawass, former Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, criticized the film’s producers, presenters, and the purported findings. He stated that “[w]e can now see the full extent of the crimes that have been committed against Tutankhamun.”7 Other Egyptologists describe the results as “malicious slander on ancient Egyptian civilisation.”8 Hawass also accused a former member of the project of using the results of the DNA and CT analyses without authorization and at one point implied that tissue samples/DNA may have been taken without permission. Biohistorical studies raise a number of issues about the construction of research questions as well as difficult ethical issues. Fundamentally, we need to evaluate the motivation for any particular research question or agenda. Jane Buikstra (2017, p. 292) firmly states that “practitioners should be able to answer that pesky question with which we regularly torture our graduate students”: (with words that still ring in my head) “…So what?!” Though establishing Tutankhamen’s parentage through DNA analysis may solve a historical mystery, what does this contribute to our broader understanding of ancient Egyptian social organization? The medical mystery of whether or not Tutankhamen had Marfan or Köhler’s disease makes for great television, but how does this contribute to our understanding of the social experience of disease in the past or how people living with these conditions today are 6 7 and http://weekly., accessed January 29, 2015). 8


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impacted? These questions may offer a chance to capitalize on Tutankhamen’s fame to bring these issues to the public’s attention. The other facet of Tutankhamen’s story is the ethics of biohistorical research: what are the boundaries of research when working with the remains of “known” historical figures? Where is the balance to be struck between scientific investigation, respect for the dead, descendant concerns, and media attention? It is no small irony that mummy scientists have only recently attempted to formalize ethical guidelines, given that mummy studies are composed of practitioners from disciplines (archaeology, anthropology, and biomedical sciences) with strong ethical guidelines concerning conservation, informed consent, and the fundamental axiom of causing no harm. Ina Kaufmann and Frank Rühli (2010) and Bettina Lonfat et  al. (2015) have linked the physical integrity of the body with continuity of the individual self. Further, Kaufmann and Rühli (2010) suggest that because anthropogenic mummies were intentionally produced, invasive and/or destructive analyses would violate the principle of informed consent. Søren Holm (2001) discusses “residual rights,” which refer to instances in which there is no possibility of a true proxy decision and in which the body may be controlled/owned. Holm argues that, even so, an individual may still have residual rights to their body as they may have “an interest in a dignified treatment after death” and “in maintaining one’s good name” (2001, p. 446). Our understanding of the intent behind Egyptian anthropogenic mummification certainly suggests that bodily integrity was important. Thus, any destructive or invasive procedures would violate the principle of informed consent, given that the function of mummification was preservation of the body. It is also clear that Tutankhamen has an enduring and distinct social presence, even agency, since Hawass and others feel that the good name of Tutankhamen has been harmed by the manner in which the BBC documentary interpreted and presented the CT and DNA results. While the above ethical guidelines are valuable, their application requires further consideration. Equating structural integrity of the body with individual completeness reflects a modern biomedical perspective of body ownership and personhood (Tarlow 2006). This is, however, grounded in our western understanding of the body and the self; both archaeological (e.g., Chapman 2000; Jones 2005) and bioarchaeological (e.g., Duncan and Schwarz 2014; Geller 2012) research have explored the fragmentary, relational, dividual body—finding that continued social existence or significance is not predicated upon an intact body. Again, if we reframe our questions, appreciating the culturally contingent interpretation of the relationship between the body and the self, we may bring both the significance of context and the larger issues of ethics and body treatment to the public.

Social Determinants of Health The disciplinary history of mummy studies, long nearly synonymous with soft tissue paleopathology, has structured the development and current research foci for the field. Michael Zimmerman, one of the scientists that helped launch modern mummy studies, thinks that “The examination of mummies has two goals: fitting the

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diagnosis of diseases in individual mummies into a picture of the health status of a given ancient population; and providing information on the evolution of disease” (2014, pp.  120–121). Janet Monge and Frank Rühli, both leaders in mummy research, recently stated that “The raison d’être for the scientific study of mummies is to gain an understanding of the evolution of health and disease in previous or extinct populations of humans” (2015, p. 936). A central tenet of the field is that by better understanding the past of a disease, researchers can inform on its present status and future prospects (Aufderheide 1981, 2000; Monge and Rühli 2015; Rühli and Henneberg 2013). Ancient mummies with smallpox, tuberculosis, colon cancer, and atherosclerosis certainly have public appeal9—our challenge is to relate ancient cases to coevolutionary histories and public health interventions. The pathophysiology and genetic history of a pathogen is only one part of a society’s experience of a disease. When we study paleopathology, we are effectively investigating embodiment in that skeletal manifestations of a disease is the product of the interaction between biology, environment, and culture. At the most basic level, bioarchaeologists consider how demographic variables like age and sex influence the health experience of individuals or communities. In a more focused manner, we may examine evidence of specific social and/or environmental variables upon health. For example, bioarchaeologists have examined how racialization impacts exposure to violent trauma and environmental pollutants (de la Cova 2012; Harrod et al. 2012; Schroeder et al. 2013; Watkins 2012), how income inequality influenced risk of morbidity and mortality (Newman and Gowland 2017), and how the health consequences of climate change have been structured by social marginalization (Schug et al. 2013, Chap. 6). Studies like these, which link biological, social, and environmental factors and establish connections between prehistoric/historic and modern public health, should be directed to nonspecialist audiences. Mummy studies researchers have unique opportunities for framing questions that explore these linkages; in so doing they can contribute to the public understanding of the deep connections between biological and social determinants of health.  Here is a short list of some news stories that features mummies and disease: html?_r=0 9


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Chagas Disease Currently, over ten million people in Central and South America are infected with Trypanosoma cruzi, a parasitic protozoan that causes Chagas disease. The natural sylvatic cycle of the parasite involves transmission via members of the Reduviidae insect family to over 100 different mammalian species. The research on Chagas disease has been predominantly focused on diagnosis and on genetic analyses. Chagas disease was first documented in South American mummies in the early 1980s (e.g., Fontana et al. 1983; Rothhammer et al. 1985) and more recently in the Rio Grande Valley of northern Mexico/southern United States (Reinhard et al. 2003) and Brazil (Fernandes et al. 2008; Lima et al. 2008). Several studies have focused on extracting T. cruzi DNA from mummified remains in order to estimate the point at which humans entered the life cycle of the parasite (e.g., Fernandes et al. 2008; Ferreira et al. 2000; Guhl et al. 1997, 2000). Based on sampling 283 Andean mummies, Arthur Aufderheide et al. (2004, p. 2038) conclude that “Upon settlement of this coastal segment ≈9500 years ago, humans intruded upon and became participants in this sylvatic cycle, perhaps augmented by various forms of trypanosome ingestion, including consumption of infected food. Gradually, the domestic cycle evolved, leading to its current status today.” One aspect of this research that remains under-explored and is of relevance to public health issues today is the impact of environmental change on the risk of Chagas infection. The results of the above research clearly demonstrate that by altering the natural landscape, humans inserted themselves into the natural cycle of the triatomine bugs and, in the process, placed themselves at risk for Chagas infection (Aufderheide et al. 2004, p. 2036). Fast forwarding to the present and future, as human impact on the environment intensifies and as temperature and precipitation change, so too will the risk of exposure to Chagas (Garza et al. 2014; Medone et al. 2015). Awareness of Chagas infection in the southern United States appears to be increasing,10 though it is unclear if incidence is actually increasing. Still, the Center for Disease Control considers Chagas to be one of the five “neglected parasitic infections” that warrant public health action.11 Today, risk of infection is associated with poverty and poor housing construction. Therefore, if the range of triatomine bugs changes in response to climate change, those most likely to be at risk for infection are low-income groups living in socioeconomically depressed areas. Although vaccines for Chagas are apparently in development, the only current prevention relies upon the use of insecticides and efforts aimed at housing construction improvements. As noted by Garza et al. (2014, p. e2818), however, “such publicly organized programs do not  In this 2015 Rhode Island Public Radio article (, the reporter notes that while recent reports of Chagas disease in North Carolina and Texas would seem to suggest an uptick in frequency, in reality triatomine bugs and Chagas have been there for some time. In effect, there hasn’t been any actual increase in incidence, people just seem to be more aware of it. This article is also noteworthy in that they specifically mention and link in Aufderheide et al. (2004) article. 11 10

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exist in the United States, partly due to lack of information regarding human cases, vector-parasite incidence, and reservoirs of the disease.”

Tuberculosis Tuberculosis ranks as one of the top ten killers in the world, with an estimated 10.4 million new cases worldwide and accounting for 1.4 million deaths in 2015 (WHO 2016). The prehistoric distribution of tuberculosis has been extensively investigated, and evidence of the disease has been documented across both the Old and New Worlds, from the Neolithic period of Italy, the Mediterranean, and Northern Europe to A.D. 700 in South America (Roberts and Buikstra 2014). Mummies have figured prominently in attempts to reconstruct the evolutionary history of the disease based on genetic analyses. In the earliest effort to identify pathogenic DNA, Wilmar Salo et al. (1994) successfully extracted a 123 bp segment of the M. tuberculosis genome from a mummy belonging to the Chiribaya culture of southern Peru (A.D. 1000–1300). Since then, M. tuberculosis DNA has been extracted from mummified remains from prehistoric Chile (Arriaza et al. 1995), ancient Egypt (Donoghue et al. 2010; Zink et al. 2003, 2004, 2007), pre-Hispanic Columbia (Sotomayor et al. 2004), sixteenth- to nineteenth-century Eastern Siberia (Dabernat et al. 2014), and eighteenth-century Hungary (Donoghue et al. 2011; Fletcher et al. 2003a). One of the primary goals of this research has been on establishing the molecular and evolutionary relationships between different M. tuberculosis strains (Donoghue et al. 2011; Fletcher et al. 2003a, b; Kay et al. 2015; Zink et al. 2003, 2004, 2007). This is a significant endeavor because documenting the coevolutionary history of humans and M. tuberculosis could directly impact modern day treatment and prevention strategies (Gagneux 2012). Until recently, humans were thought to have acquired tuberculosis from more ancient mammalian forms such as M. bovis, the strain that infects cattle. Brosch et al. (2002), however, demonstrated that contrary to expectations, the human forms are the most complex and, by inference, the most ancient. These results were echoed in several studies based on the analysis of mummified remains including Egyptian mummies (Zink et al. 2003), eighteenth-century Hungarian mummies (Fletcher et  al. 2003b), and seventeenth- and eighteenth-­ century frozen mummies from Yakutia in Eastern Siberia (Dabernat et  al. 2014) (Fig. 12.6). Recently, Bos et al. (2014) amplified Mycobacterium DNA from several pre-Columbian South American individuals and concluded it was most closely related to pinniped Mycobacterium strains. What has not been central to this research is the broader social context of health and disease. Again, using the concept of embodiment as a foundation, it is important to consider the social factors that play into disease morbidity and mortality. In the mummy studies literature, discussion of the social context of disease, particularly relating to the Old World, has generally been limited to broad temporal time periods or socioeconomic status. For example, the eighteenth-century mummies recovered from the Dominican Church in Vác, Hungary, are characterized as representing


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Fig. 12.5  Photo of a large fecal mass (black arrow) in a Brazilian mummy known as Lapa do Boquete IV (Fernandes et al. 2008)

“several middle-class families and clerics” (Donoghue et al. 2011, p. 51), “prominent local families and clerics” (Fletcher et al. 2003b, p. 143), and “the remains of affluent Catholics” (Kay et al. 2015, p. 2). Helen Donoghue et al. (2011, p. 52) do note that this sample provides the opportunity to examine preindustrial “local endemic strains of M. tuberculosis that were prevalent before the epidemic of tuberculosis associated with the Industrial Revolution in Europe.” In their discussion of the biomolecular analysis of seventeenth- to nineteenth-century mummified remains from the Yakut region of Siberia, Henri Dabernat and colleagues reference the impact of European colonialism, noting that the “reemergence of tuberculosis in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries appears to be linked to the arrival of new migrants, including political exiles and prisoners” (Dabernat et al. 2014, p. 7). Poverty is the primary factor influencing risk of tuberculosis infection and outcome today. Though tuberculosis has been labelled an “emerging” infectious disease, for many people in many parts of the world, including the United States, it never really left. Despite the availability of effective treatments, tuberculosis continues to kill more than two million people each year (Keshavjee and Farmer 2012), disproportionately impacting the poor and socially marginalized irrespective of whether they live in first- or third-world countries. These deaths are a manifestation of structural violence; deeply ingrained social inequalities affect exposure to environmental stressors (e.g., pollutants), infectious agents, and access to resources such as health care and education (Farmer et al. 2006; Galtung 1969). Much of the research that considers health disparities stemming from structural violence is

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Fig. 12.6  Frozen mummies from Yakutia, Eastern Siberia that had evidence of tuberculosis (Dabernat et al. 2014)

focused on modern populations (e.g., Fassin 2003; Lane et  al. 2008) and only recently has been extended to health in the past (Klaus 2012; Nystrom 2014; Schug et  al. 2013). Social factors influencing the spread of tuberculosis in the past are likely similar to those today, but they have rarely been investigated (Roberts and Buikstra 2003; Roberts and Buikstra 2014). That being said, researchers have considered the impact of social stress (Buikstra 1992, 1999; Buikstra and Williams 1991), population density and size (Buikstra 1977, 1999; Buikstra and Cook 1981), diet (Buikstra 1992; Formicola et  al. 1987), industrialization (Hutás 1999), ­occupational risks (Buikstra 1977; Buikstra and Cook 1981; Buikstra and Williams 1991), and poverty (Knick 1982) on tuberculosis infection. There are several aspects of this approach to research that can benefit mummy studies and bioarchaeology, helping us make significant connections with the public. First, it demonstrates that health cannot be reduced to biology alone. When the public receives messages that health issues can be isolated to specific genes,12 this reinforces the idea that the complexity of biology can be reduced to genetics. As scientists that bridge the “divide” between the social and biological sciences, our 12


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research provides us a platform to counter this narrative, reaffirming the complex interplay between biology and culture. This biocultural approach to health research also provides the foundation for actively resisting “victim blaming.” For many, decisions regarding access to resources (e.g., food, health care, living conditions) are restricted by sociopolitical forces beyond their control—therefore, their “choices” (e.g., incorporation into imperial political economy [Klaus 2012], exposure to violence stemming from resource scarcity resulting from climate change [Schug et al. 2013]) are, in actuality, constrained (e.g., see Chap. 5). In this manner, our discipline is drawn closer to the work of medical anthropologists working with living groups experiencing the negative health consequences of social inequality (Holmes 2006; Quesada et  al. 2011). Again, this research demonstrates that health is social and that “choices” (e.g., becoming a seasonal farm laborer [Holmes 2013], staying in the path of hurricane [Holtz et al. 2006], buying fresh produce [Lane et al. 2008]) are constrained by structural inequalities that ultimately lead to health disparities. Emphasizing that our health is directly influenced by political and economic forces far beyond our immediate control is one of the most important services we could do in public education and outreach.

Conclusion In considering why mummies seem to capture public imagination and represent one of the more public faces of bioarchaeology, Chris Stojanowski and Bill Duncan (2014, p. 5) concluded that “Mummies are interesting because they are mummies.” I would modify this slightly and say that some mummies are interesting because we can see them as individuals. The most compelling narratives have been constructed around singular, individual mummies like Ötzi, Tutankhamun, Juanita the Ice Maiden, and others.13 Stories that have unfolded around these mummies have invoked political intrigue, murder, sacrifice, and incest, creating individual narratives and life histories. While we as scientists generally prefer to avoid the sampling bias inherent in a single life history, we run the risk of losing the personal identification that inspires public engagement. Using an individual life as a prism for exploring larger social issues, past and present, would seem to our challenge. An analytical focus on the individual is not something new or missing from bioarchaeology. Osteobiographies, using an individual’s story as a vehicle to explore broader issues, actually have a long history in bioarchaeology beginning with Frank 13

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Saul’s (1972) formulation of the approach in the United States. More recent efforts illustrate the value of articulating and communicating our results through the lens of the individual. In their introduction to The Bioarchaeology of Individuals, Ann Stodder and Ann Palkovich (2012, p. 2) note that the population-centric and increasingly laboratory-focused research of much bioarchaeology has somewhat distanced “the study of skeletal remains from the lives of the people we study.” The premise of the volume is that an analytical focus on the individual does not limit the broader significance of the research but rather enriches it. Updated manifestations of the osteobiographical approach include Shannon Novak’s (2017) and Meredith Ellis’ (2016) discussion of remains from the Spring Street Church in New York City. In both instances the authors focus on relating the story of one or two individuals as a means of “narrating both life and death histories” (Novak 2017, p. 93). Alexis Boutin (Chap. 13) explicitly takes a narrative approach in her presentation of pathologies observed in an individual from the site of Dilmun, Bahrain. By centering her fictive narrative, grounded “robust archaeological, osteological, clinical, iconographic, and textual data,” on a single individual, Boutin creates a story that is more accessible and appealing to a wider variety of audiences (2016, p. 18). The value of these efforts, and what differentiates them from typical case studies, is that they encourage a “humanistic, even experiential, interpretations of skeletal data” (Boutin 2012, p. 113). Thus, they encourage a deeper exploration of complex human behavior without sensationalization.

Parting Thoughts Though I do think that the public appeal of mummies is something that can advance our messages, I do not think that the answer is quite as simple as putting a mummy’s face on everything. The following thoughts take a broader perspective on these issues and are not limited to how mummy research may more effectively convey the significance and relevancy of bioarchaeological research. As I have little faith that major media production companies will significantly change their programming models, the burden falls upon us, and this means that we have to take a close look at how and where we communicate. I am used to thinking about communicating in one way and in a limited number of venues: peer-reviewed journals and edited volumes intended for other bioarchaeologists. Although I may think strategically and target one journal over another, there really is no difference in how I end up writing the article. At the same time, communicating via various electronic/social media represents our most underutilized format, but also the one that has the greatest potential for success. This suggests we should adopt a multipronged strategy that would include a number of different formats (Chap. 14). Our discipline’s stock-in-trade is long-format writing. Clearly the success of the bioarchaeological perspective is reflected in the proliferation of books and book series dedicated to the topic (e.g., Bioarchaeology and Social Theory, Springer; Bioarchaeological Interpretations of the Human Past: Local, Regional, and Global Perspectives, University of Florida Press). These are principally intended for fellow


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academics and far outstrip the offerings available for the public (e.g., Archaeology and the Dead II: A Few Good Skeletons, Catherine Gaither; Skeletons in Our Closet: Revealing the Our Past through Bioarchaeology, Clark Spencer Larsen). There are several books for nonspecialist audiences that discuss scientific research on mummies. Recent examples include The World of Mummies: from Ötzi to Lenin by Albert Zink, Ancient Ice Mummies by James H.  Dickson, and Catherine Gaither’s Archaeology and the Dead I: A Few Good Mummies. These books no doubt raise public awareness of the scientific value and potential of bioarchaeology, skeletons, and mummies. Yet, one of our largest potential audiences (some might say “captive”) is university students. As educators we have an unparalleled opportunity to restructure the conversation and to use the misappropriation of bioarchaeological/archaeological data as “teachable” moments. For example, I developed a course called the Bioarchaeology of Food as a direct response to the popularization of things like the PaleoDiet (see Chap. 7). I also developed a course called Inequality and Human Health as a direct response to my perception of the escalating discrimination and rhetoric that accompanied the 2016 United States Presidential Election. These efforts were reactive on my part, but we could also be more proactive and incorporate appropriate material in our courses. Bioarchaeological research is not well represented in many of the mass-produced introductory bioanthropology textbooks.14 Although writing a more comprehensive textbook is one option, the ­production of short, topical, narrative-style books (similar in nature to the short ethnographic books commonly used in cultural anthropology courses such as The Forest People by Colin Turnbull) could be used as stand-alone or supplementary texts. The books could focus on bioarchaeological contributions on specific, socially significant topics such as violence, social inequality, climate change, and human health and diet. The way we typically communicate is likely not going to be conducive for internet-­based media outlets, podcasts, or video spots. We are trained from our first days as graduate students to pay an extraordinary amount of attention to “thick description” and detailed discussions of complex bioarchaeological contexts. It is somewhat jarring, therefore, to think about not writing like this, and no doubt achieving success will take a lot of practice. There are, of course, several examples of bioarchaeologists that have successfully bridged this “communication gap” and  Many biological anthropology textbooks follow a fairly standard sequence of topics: the development of evolutionary theory, forces of evolution, primate evolution, modern primate behavioral ecology, fossil hominins, and then modern human biological diversity. The books Biological Anthropology by Michael Park and Biological Anthropology: Concepts and Connections by Augustin Fuentes (which I have used) do not mention bioarchaeology. The textbook Biological Anthropology: The Natural History of Humankind (4th edition) by Craig Stanford, John Allen, and Susan Antón has a single chapter on bioarchaeology which it shares with forensics. The textbook by Clark Spencer Larsen, Our Origins: Discovering Physical Anthropology (which I also use), also follows this standard topical format and has a single chapter at the end that discusses the contributions of bioarchaeology as it relates to the development of agriculture. 14

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that are writing well-travelled blogs, most notably Kristina Killgrove (Powered by Osteons) and Katy Meyers Emery (Bones Don’t Lie). As noted recently by these authors, however, bioarchaeological blogging is in its infancy (Chap. 14; Meyers Emery and Killgrove 2015). Additionally, we can develop relationships with science writers that can effectively “translate” our research (see Chap. 11).15 Blogs, textbooks, and popular books all draw upon the same basic medium that we are most comfortable with: the written word. Other formats worth exploring are video or audio podcasts. Alexis Boutin (Sonoma State University) had her students produce a series of short newscast style “Bioarchaeology Matters” video segments. Drawing on data derived from both prehistoric and modern contexts, these “news stories” touched on pertinent issues facing the world today such as climate change, violence, and diet. The goal of the project was to demonstrate to students the relevance of bioarchaeology and the importance of engaging with the biocultural perspective. In my own coursework, students in my Inequality and Human Health course worked with journalism students from the American University in Cairo to produce short audio podcasts. The podcasts, approximately 5 min long, focused on discussing the social determinants of health and the impact of social discrimination and inequality on health. Though these projects focused on health inequality among living populations, the students explicitly employed the biocultural framework that grounds bioarchaeology. One of the primary constraints on the above-described projects is their limited distribution and the fact that they reflect personal, individualized efforts. For a more effective and longer, lasting impact, I believe our efforts should be coordinated and centralized. As a working model, the website produced by the American Anthropological Association Race: Are We So Different? is a prime example. That website represents a sustained and collaborative effort at public engagement on a central important topic. This volume asks “how can bioarchaeologists speak more effectively to the public?” My goal in this chapter was not to point out where mummy researchers may have gone wrong in this regard, in their research design, or in their selection of research questions. Rather, this discussion was intended to offer a vision for future directions and how we may constructively engage with different media outlets. The visibility of mummy research provides an opportunity for us to steer the message away from the promulgation of “gee-whiz,” sensationalized stories about individual mummies. By utilizing the intensive, personalized narrative as a springboard, we can elevate the visibility of the discipline while informing the public on meaningful issues in a manner that conveys the importance of appreciating the complexity of human behavior.



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Chapter 13

Writing Bioarchaeological Stories to Right Past Wrongs Alexis T. Boutin

Introduction As exemplified by its 2016 presidential election, the United States is experiencing a historical moment of xenophobia. Fear, hatred, and mistrust are characterizing relationships between people in America where differences exist, whether based on sexual orientation and gender identity, national origin, or socioeconomic status or any number of factors. Now, more than ever, it is important to remember that all humans belong to the same species. Anthropologists, who study past and present humanity and apply this knowledge to the solution of human problems (American Anthropological Association 2016), can potentially play an instrumental role in conveying this message. In this chapter, I focus on the ways that bioarchaeologists, with their research on past human bodies and the stories about life and death that these can tell, are particularly well-positioned to explore similarities and differences between people and populations in a way that promotes empathy. This potential will only be realized, however, if bioarchaeologists make a concerted effort to share the results of their research with public audiences in engaging, ethical, and effective ways. Regardless of where in the world our ancestors are from, the religions we practice, or the political parties we support, all humans are Homo sapiens with shared biological and behavioral traits. Anthropologists and scholars from other disciplines (e.g., psychology, neuroscience) argue that many human social behaviors can be attributed to Theory of Mind, which we share with our ape relatives due to common ancestry (Premack and Woodruff 1978; Rosati et al. 2010). Theory of Mind explains that humans recognize the mental states (e.g., beliefs, desires, intentions) of other members of our species, allowing us to understand and even predict their behavior (Baron-Cohen 1999). This ability to take another person’s perspective enables us to

A. T. Boutin (*) Department of Anthropology, Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, CA, USA e-mail: [email protected] © Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019 J. E. Buikstra (ed.), Bioarchaeologists Speak Out, Bioarchaeology and Social Theory,



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both hurt and help our fellow humans (de Waal 2005, pp.  133–148, 177–201). Hurting can occur when we distinguish members of out-groups from those of in-­ groups, identifying them as Other. This makes it easier to dehumanize them, allowing inhumane behavior to become acceptable. But helping also can occur, because Theory of Mind permits empathy. The process of putting ourselves in another’s place, empathy makes them human to us once more and can lead to compassionate treatment in accordance with moral standards. In the words of primatologist Frans de Waal (2005, p. 247), “empathy is the one weapon in the human repertoire able to rid us of the curse of xenophobia.” How can we encourage humans to have more empathy for one another and reduce xenophobia? A spate of recent publications, by public intellectuals (Rosefield 2017) and by academic authors speaking to others of their ilk (Assmann and Detmers 2016), has attempted to define empathy, identify how best to activate it, and decide whether it produces positive or negative outcomes. Similar conversations have been occurring in disciplines such as museum studies (Arnold-de-Simine 2013; Brett 2016; Cook 2016) and education (Brooks 2009; Davis et  al. 2001; Endacott and Brooks 2013; Yilmaz 2007). Anthropological treatments of the social roles that empathy plays cross-culturally are surprisingly limited and mostly come from psychological and medical anthropology (e.g., Hollan and Throop 2011; Skultans 2007; Strauss 2004). I could not locate any research on how anthropologists can encourage empathy in consumers of their research, contrary to my expectations for a discipline devoted to the study of humankind. This chapter is a first attempt at filling that gap, from the perspective of disciplinary writing conventions and bioarchaeology. The goal of anthropology is, in some ways, paradoxical. Anthropologists explore the full diversity of human biology and culture across space and time, while at the same time acknowledging that diversity represents variations on a theme of common evolutionary origins. Respecting these differences, while recognizing similarities, should encourage empathy with our fellow humans. This is the spirit of the quote and Internet meme variously attributed to twentieth-century American anthropologist Ruth Benedict that “the purpose of anthropology is to make the world safe for human differences” (Wheeler 2017). Even if the source of the quote is uncertain, its spirit has been embraced by anthropologists during the waning days of the presidency of “anthropologist-in-chief” Barack Obama (Kuper 2016). But how can anthropologists capitalize on the enormous potential that our discipline offers to promote empathy during any historical moment in which xenophobia prevails? The limitations of my own expertise prevent me from offering a comprehensive or definitive list of solutions. Instead, I focus here on advocating for bioarchaeologists, with their investigations of past lives and lifeways from archaeological human remains, to be at the vanguard of anthropological efforts to promote empathy. This can only occur if bioarchaeologists are willing to break free from the traditional academic modes of interpretation, which sequester our research from the general public and encourage misperceptions of its broader utility, and experiment with new ways of writing about and disseminating our findings. Specifically, in this chapter I argue that careful writing of widely accessible, fictional yet evidence-based, narrative

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interpretations of archaeological human remains can encourage empathy by rehumanizing both the subjects of our research and the practitioners of our discipline to the public.

Less Than Human? In a syndicated newspaper column that appeared less than 2 weeks after the 2016 presidential election, historian George Will (2016) channeled his ape ancestry to dehumanize academic professionals, going so far as to blame them for the election’s outcome. Writing that “academia should consider how it contributed to, and reflects Americans’ judgments pertinent to, Donald Trump’s election,” Will frames academia as a homogeneous automaton, eliding the diverse actors who comprise it. The human presence that he does acknowledge—in contrast to “normal Americans”— consists of “tenured faculty and cosseted students,” a characterization that many at the public university where I teach would passionately dispute (especially the part-­ time lecturers who comprise the majority of the faculty and the students who work multiple jobs, strive for legal residency, and raise children while earning their degrees). Cherry-picking anecdotes about campus “safe spaces” and actions against microaggressions, while citing one study revealing some college students’ poor grasp of core subjects, Will (2016) insinuates that the practice of higher education is not only irrelevant, but also harmful to, the general public. In these respects, Will (2016) echoes those lawmakers who have, for decades, called for federal funding to be stripped from academic research budgets in a multitude of disciplines (Achenbach and Sun 2017; Deb 2017; Koch 1998). Particular ire is directed by Will (2016) at academic writing conventions, suggesting a correlation between years of higher education and the use of “pretentious jargon.” He writes, “the point of such ludicrous prose is to signal membership in a closed clerisy that possesses a private language.” I disagree with Will's (2016) characterization of the people and outcomes of higher education, and I find the latter statement too sweeping (Stephen Hawking, anyone?). However, I can’t help but agree that academic professionals who adhere to traditional modes for interpreting and disseminating their findings—writing in technical, analytical prose, which is then published as articles in academic journals and books with academic presses— alienate themselves from the general public. These are the very people whose federal tax dollars help support agencies like the National Science Foundation and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities and whose support is needed to fend off politically motivated attacks. In order to demonstrate our relevance and ensure the sustainability of our disciplines, academics must actively explore publicly oriented and accessible writing styles and venues—that is, explore new ways of writing to right past wrongs. Anthropologists themselves have, for some time, been implementing course corrections in the way we analyze, interpret, and write about behavioral and biological diversity in past and present human societies. With the advents of the Writing


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Culture movement in ethnography (Abu-Lughod 1991, 2008; Clifford and Marcus 1986; Geertz 1988) and the postprocessual paradigm in archaeology (Gero 1991; Hodder 1985; Joyce et  al. 2002; Meskell 1999), among others, anthropologists began to deconstruct interpretive schemes and writing styles that depicted human societies as static, uniform, fully knowable by anthropologists, and populated by (in the immortal words of Ruth Tringham 1991, p.  97) “genderless, faceless blobs.” Although the youth of bioarchaeology as a discipline (Buikstra 1977) saw it grow alongside these movements, its equal grounding in the “new” physical anthropology meant that use of social theory was, until fairly recently, limited mostly to mortuary practices (Rakita 2014). The humanistic methods employed by some archaeologists, such as narrative styles of writing (among others, Praetzellis et  al. 1997; Schrire 1995; Van Dyke and Bernbeck 2015; Wilkie 2003) and sensory explorations of human experience (e.g., Hamilakis 2013; Hegmon 2016; Houston et al. 2006; Jameson et  al. 2003), are practically nonexistent in bioarchaeology. Stojanowski and Duncan (2015, p. 52) argue for their increased use by bioarchaeologists, citing the ability of affective approaches to “bring to life similarities and differences in personal experiences in time and space”—in other words, to elicit an empathetic response. I believe that by supplementing traditional analytical interpretations with fictive osteobiographical narratives about past persons, bioarchaeologists can more effectively demonstrate the relevance of our discipline and help to heal the social rifts caused by xenophobia in all its forms.

Affective Pathways to Empathy Research by psychologists provides support for the ability of affective methods, such as narratives, to successfully influence human behavior. With his global theory of personality, Seymour Epstein (1994) recognized that humans have two modes of processing information and making decisions: the experiential system (primarily driven by intuition and affect) and the analytical system (where rational, deliberative responses reign). The experiential system, which “encompasses a wide range of representations, varying from discrete images to complex narratives,” is more effective at solving problems, can result in better judgments, and can operate at higher levels of complexity than the analytical system (Epstein 1994, pp.  714, 719). Narrative styles of writing have intrinsic appeal, Epstein argues, because they are “emotionally engaging and represent events in a manner similar to how they are experienced in real life” (1994, p. 711). Turning to another psychologist, Paul Slovic (2007, p.  83) describes how affective responses, both positive and negative, are translated into “more nuanced feelings such as empathy, sympathy, compassion… [which] have been found to be critical for motivating people to help others.” His research demonstrates that affective responses are maximized by images (e.g., photographs, biographical sketches) of identified individuals, whereas they are “numbed” in response to groups of unidentified or statistical individuals (Slovic 2007, pp.  88–89). Finally, Loris Vezzali et  al. (2015) demonstrate that extended,

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indirect intergroup contact via the reading of popular novels (here, the Harry Potter series) allows perspective-taking, which in turn improves attitudes toward stigmatized out-groups. An example of the significant public interest in bioarchaeological (or, more accurately, biohistorical) research that literary figures can engender is found in the fifteenth-­ century English King Richard III. Although notable as the last king of England to die in battle, Richard III’s 2-year-long reign more than 500 years ago would seem to make him an unlikely subject of “the media event of a lifetime” (Toon and Stone 2016, p. 57). Yet as portrayed by William Shakespeare, Richard’s “layered antihero” (Toon and Stone 2016, p.  52)—whose sociopathic lust for vengeance was attributed to resentment about his bodily deformities—has been read by generations of reluctant students, reenacted countless times on stage and screen, and arguably served as inspiration for sympathetic “bad boys” of modern popular culture. The discovery, analysis, and reburial of his skeletal remains in the early 2010s became one of the biggest bioarchaeological news stories in the popular media (Stojanowski and Duncan 2015, p. 55) and ultimately came to embody the “melding of public interest, popular culture, scientific knowledge, tourism, local politics (both municipality and university), and media exposure” (Buikstra 2016, p. 305). As Toon and Stone (2016, p. 52) explain in their highly readable narrative, “Shakespeare’s literature has endured, etching a person who seems knowable because we’re shown his inner life.” In other words, the Bard’s literary immortalization of Richard III has allowed readers and audience members to have empathy for him, causing bioarchaeological research on his skeletal remains to move from the back page to the headlines. This research project, with its focus on a known historical person transformed into a literary figure, is exceptional in many ways. Yet it suggests the potential of deviating from the writing conventions that bioarchaeologists typically employ. Statistically significant results are held in the highest regard, causing small sample sizes and individualized case studies to be regarded with some suspicion. Much of bioarchaeologists’ writing is done to demonstrate compliance with legal requirements or to clamber onto or up the academic tenure track and as such adheres to an analytical style and employs technical language. Collectively, though, the case study of Richard III, coupled with findings from psychology research, supports the ability of affective styles of writing (i.e., fictional narrative) that focus on one person (in the style of osteobiography) and are written in more colloquial language, to generate interest and empathy. In other words, when moving beyond traditional research objectives to broader social concerns, fictive osteobiographical narratives are worth writing.

 ictive Osteobiographical Narratives as Affective F Interpretation One of the first archaeologists to recognize the affective appeal of narrative was Janet Spector, with her ground-breaking book What This Awl Means (1993). Set in a nineteenth-century Dakota village in southeastern Minnesota, this story relates the


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object biography of an awl owned by Mazaokiyewin, a teenage girl who marks its handle to represent her craft accomplishments, which is excavated 150 years later. In the book’s first chapter, Spector acknowledges that her narrative approach is motivated by empathy, although she imbues this term with multiple meanings. On the one hand, she explains that she became an archaeologist to learn what life was like for people in the past—to discover the “essences, images, and feelings” that are more easily conveyed by a narrative style of writing (Spector 1993, p. 1). On the other hand, indifference and even animosity between Indians and Euro-American anthropologists had historically erected “barriers to empathy” that she hoped her story would help deconstruct (Spector 1993, p. 128). Her approach provoked a number of critiques (one of which will be explored further below), but it demonstrates that there is precedent for writing stories about material remains and individual persons from the past to elicit empathy from modern audiences. What This Awl Means was one of a number of narrative interpretations published by archaeologists over the past quarter-century (see above) that have inspired my own research. As I have described elsewhere in detail (Boutin 2011, pp. 112–115; 2012, pp. 203–204; 2016, pp. 18–19) but will only summarize here, writing fictive osteobiographical narratives has a number of benefits, both for authors and readers. During the writing process, bioarchaeologists must critically examine and justify the behavioral and life course inferences they make from osteological and archaeological evidence. They are also forced to contextualize these inferences within all available lines of contemporary evidence, which may include textual, iconographic, ethnographic, clinical, etc. (some of which may not have been explored otherwise). These inferences and the evidence for them should be explained in annotations (e.g., footnotes, endnotes, or marginal notes) to the narrative. By providing annotations, the curtain is pulled back on the interpretive process in which bioarchaeologists (and all other anthropologists) engage, with its combination of hypothesis-testing, experience, education, and imagination. The narratives that result should be written in language that is colloquial—accessible to laypeople as well as academics from other disciplines. Once written, the experiential reconstruction of a past person’s life and death ways should (as predicted by psychological research) engender an empathetic response from readers. Fictive osteobiographical narratives also carry some risks, which bioarchaeologists must address before starting to write. As explained by Jane Buikstra (2016, p.  293), osteobiographies ideally should act as both “‘microhistorical’…prism through which the society is viewed” and as a “mirror, wherein we reflect upon our own interests…in light of today’s fashions, biases, and worldviews.” Reading fictive narratives about past peoples allows readers to put themselves in the place of the osteobiographical subjects—that is, to have empathy for them. But what if, instead of seeing the shared humanity of a subject distant from them in time and space, they see only themselves? This is where mirroring can move beyond empathy into appropriation. The potential for ethical violations exists any time that a bioarchaeologist can be construed to speak for an osteobiographical subject but is especially acute when that subject is a known historical figure, as occurs in biohistorical research.

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Several scholars have described these challenges. Robb (2009) problematizes the “technologies of individuation” that twenty-first-century scientists use to repersonalize archaeological bodies. Case in point is the naturally mummified remains of an Early Bronze Age male from southern Europe, who has been named (“Ötzi”), written about for academic and popular audiences, and made the subject of numerous two- and three-dimensional visual reconstructions. Thus, a person from the distant past comes to have a “biography and bodily constitution mirroring those familiar to modern Western Europeans” (Robb 2009, p. 123) rather than one appropriate to his original sociohistoric setting. Looking specifically at archaeological narratives, Reinhard Bernbeck (2015, p. 269) characterizes them as “a colonizing project that turns past Others, who likely had a fundamentally different kind of self, into peoples who emotions, desires, and rationalities are close to our own.” Citing an overreach of empathy, he writes that “such instrumentalization of past peoples’ subjectivities amounts to diachronic violence” (original emphasis, p. 262). To avoid inappropriate mirroring, he suggests that instead of writing narratives about “coherent individuals, we should restrict ourselves to transient subject positions we can derive from past material remains and elaborate on those ephemeral positions” (Bernbeck 2015, p. 269). Rosemary Joyce et al. identified the challenges of mirroring early on (Joyce et al. 2002, pp.  124–126), by comparing and contrasting archaeological narratives by Spector (1993) and Tringham (1991). They describe Tringham’s protagonist as a fictional character who personifies a particular subject position within the gendered contexts of actual events detected in the archaeological record. Lauding this approach, they write that Tringham’s “practice of making up plausible personifications of the types of persons who are implicit in theoretical perspectives can do no violence to the actual thoughts and motivations of someone who was never more than a fictional character” (Joyce et al. 2002, p. 125). By contrast, Spector’s work (with Mazaokiyewin, a known historical figure, as its protagonist) is regarded less favorably, insofar as Spector “impute[s] motivations, feelings, and thoughts to someone who actually lived, and who cannot speak for themselves” (Joyce et al. 2002, p. 126). This sentiment would later be echoed by Buikstra (2016, p. 308), as she considered the ethical implications of conducting biohistorical research. She argues that the bodies of known historical figures have an agency that is qualitatively different from others recently or long-deceased, due to their inherent ties to anthropologists and other scientists, public consciousness, and the historical imagination. In light of these potent critiques, the potential for ethical violations exists any time that a bioarchaeologist can be construed to speak for an osteobiographical subject but is especially acute when that subject is a known historical figure. Another concern for writers of osteobiographical narratives, especially given the current historical moment’s concern with “fake news” and “alternative facts” (Ogilvy 2017), is how to distinguish fact from fiction. More specifically, which elements of the narrative reflect actual material remains (e.g., a left femur with pathological changes at the distal end), which elements represent interpretation on the part of the author (e.g., osteophyte growth on the articular margins of the femoral condyles and porosity on their articular surfaces suggest degenerative joint disease


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of the left knee), and which elements are figments of the author’s imagination, albeit grounded in relevant evidence (e.g., based on clinical comparanda, this person would have had a limp in the left leg)? This is an issue still not dealt with adequately by many authors of archaeological narrative. For example, in a closing chapter at the end of an otherwise exemplary volume on Subjects and Narratives in Archaeology (Van Dyke and Bernbeck 2015), Sarah Pollock chides some of the authors for blurring the lines between empirical data, extrapolation, and imagination: “Is everyone clear about which is which? Is the public clear? Are there signposts in the narrative you are creating that establish those distinctions?” (2015, p. 283). This failing is what has caused critics to label archaeological narratives “just so” stories [or even “fairy tales” (Rothschild 1996)] that conform too neatly with (or mirror) our own society’s expectations. When political concerns are at play, this is especially dangerous: to return to the example of historical and literary figure Richard III, a group that fervently championed the recovery, analysis, and commemoration of his remains, the Ricardians, arguably aims at “preserving Englishness and the values of ‘little England,’ amid an increasingly multicultural United Kingdom” (Toon and Stone 2016, p. 47). This concern, like those described above, is valid and must be taken into account by bioarchaeologists who write fictive osteobiographical narrative. Cultivating empathy for people different than oneself has many benefits, including increased likelihood of compassionate treatment, but not all effects are necessarily positive. The risk of cultural appropriation is real (cf. the “All Lives Matter” movement; Yancy and Butler 2015) and can result in a “violence” like that alluded to by Bernbeck and Joyce et al., albeit one with tangible consequences. The goal of bio/archaeological narratives should be for readers to understand that persons living in the distant past were humans like we are today—but not humans like us. In response to this concern and the others described above, I offer the Bioarchaeology of Personhood model: I have described it in detail in previous publications (Boutin 2011, 2016) but will relate key aspects here. The risk of authors mirroring themselves onto their osteobiographical subjects is addressed by two aspects of the model. First, the concept of personhood recognizes that identity is contextual, relational, and can be realized along multiple dimensions. The modern Western assumption that the individual—characterized by autonomy and indivisibility—is a primary locus of identity should not be imposed upon past people, either during analysis or interpretation (Fowler 2004, 2016). Second, those who write narratives must be acutely conscious of their subject positions in terms of their own sociohistorically specific and intersectional identities, and they must reflect critically upon their authoritative role as collector, analyst, and interpreter of data and author of narrative. Only then is empathetic overreach less likely to occur. Bioarchaeologists who write narratives face a somewhat paradoxical challenge different from that experienced by archaeologists. Human remains attest to the realities experienced by actual embodied persons and cannot be construed as fictional characters or “types of persons” (cf. Joyce et al. 2002, p. 125). Yet osteobiographical narratives always and only represent one interpretation of bioarchaeological data among others that are possible, hence my use of the term “fictive” (after Wilkie 2003) to describe the narratives I write. Thus, it is critical that authors make clear

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which of a narrative’s elements are drawn from site-specific empirical data, which are from more generalized contextual evidence from that time/place (especially in pre- and protohistoric settings) and which are from the author’s imagination. When writing fictive osteobiographical narratives, I employ annotations that explain and justify all inferences made from available evidence. This strategy addresses Pollock’s (2015) concern about the reader’s ability to distinguish “fact” from “fiction.” Moreover, when narrative plot points have evidentiary annotations, both affective and analytical ways of knowing are activated in the reader: according to Endacott and Brooks (2013), this is a particularly effective way to cultivate historical empathy. The annotations also make possible a narrative that is coherent (and, arguably, more likely to be read and understood) but preserves the autonomy of the osteobiographical subject (contra Bernbeck 2015). The Bioarchaeology of Personhood model has not, however, addressed the extent to which fictive osteobiographical narratives should be written about historical persons. To return to the example of What This Awl Means, Spector sought to encourage fellow-feeling not just in her writing but also in her fieldwork: the excavation of Inyan Ceyaka Atonwan became a more empathetic project when she started working with the Dakota people, who shared their stories, taught classes, and participated in the excavations. Nevertheless, the central premise of Spector’s narrative, which links an archaeologically contextualized artifact with a historically known person even though no direct connection existed between them, has generated controversy. As Joyce et al. (2002, p. 126) put it, speaking for those “who cannot speak for themselves,” is one of the most significant ethical challenges faced by anthropologists, especially those working with socially marginalized populations from the past or in the present. But I believe that Spector’s strategy was an effective one: her book was written with the support of Dakota people, specifically direct lineal descendants of Mazaokiyewin and other people named in the story. This sort of collaboration with descendant communities must occur before any osteobiographical narrative is written about historical persons. Few precedents exist for a project of this kind, perhaps because of the ethical challenges that are inherent, so I will confine myself to some preliminary suggestions for future research. Descendant communities associated with prehistoric and historical human remains can be diverse, ranging from those affiliated by biological descent, fictive kinship, ethnicity and religion, or even a sharing of “place” and occupation (cf. Lozada 2011; Rockefeller 2016). All of these groups should be considered potential collaborators, and their participation recognized as enriching the resultant narrative. Beyond granting permission to write a narrative, collaboration might involve the sharing of drafts for feedback, the creation of a space for them to provide a written response, or co-authorship of the narrative itself. Descendant community collaborators can also supply additional lines of evidence, such as oral histories, photographs, and writings by the osteobiographical subject (Curtis-Richardson 1997; Davidson and Black 2015; Roberts and McCarthy 1995), any of which would greatly enhance a narrative. Nevertheless, bioarchaeologists must be vigilant to avoid adding to the structural violence (Nystrom 2014) that prevented socially marginalized subjects from speaking for themselves in the historical record. Prior to


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writing and disseminating a fictive osteobiographical narrative about a historical subject, permission should be requested from descendant communities. Moreover, providing opportunities for their members to collaborate on the narrative’s creation would make the resulting story, whether set in prehistoric or historical contexts, significantly more meaningful. Once written, fictive osteobiographical narratives must be disseminated widely and accessibly (as appropriate) to maximize their potential for encouraging empathy. Online venues including blogs and websites present an excellent option, as they can be visited by anyone with Internet access on a computer or smartphone. Blogs such as These Bones of Mine ( by David Mennear and Kristina Killgrove’s Forbes page ( regularly report on recent bioarchaeological research, and each has featured or referred to osteobiographical narratives that I have written (Boutin 2015; Killgrove 2016). Their impressive readership [1.5 million from 2011 to 2016 for These Bones of Mine (Mennear 2017); 200,000 in just 3 weeks for Killgrove’s Forbes site (Meyers Emery and Killgrove 2015)] attest to the public fascination with human remains from archaeological settings. Multimedia websites for excavations (e.g., Ruth Tringham’s Last House on the Hill; and museum exhibits (e.g., Written in Bone: Forensic Files of the Seventeenth Century Chesapeake; provide opportunities for readers to make their own way through bioarchaeological evidence and interpretations, both analytical and affective. The latter exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History employed multiple modes of affective interpretation, including facial reconstructions, a webcomic, and a richly illustrated book aimed at middle school aged children (Walker 2009). In these ways and more, writers of fictive osteobiographical narratives can heed Stojanowski and Duncan’s (2015, p. 56) call for bioarchaeologists to “increase public awareness about what we do and its value, and…engage and contribute to the solution of larger problems” that impact society.

 ase Study: Comparing Three Modes of Bioarchaeological C Interpretation Next, I offer an example of how to implement this affective method of narrative interpretation. Because doing so can be an intimidating prospect for bioarchaeologists accustomed to abiding by professional writing conventions, I interpret the skeletal remains of one person in three ways, so that the creation of a fictionalized narrative can be easily tracked. The three interpretations vary according to their use of an analytical or affective style and technical or colloquial language. Each mode of interpretation is tailored to a different outlet for dissemination, although, as discussed further below, their presentation should not be mutually exclusive. This case study comes from the Dilmun Bioarchaeology Project (DBP), which was founded in 2009 by me and Benjamin Porter (UC Berkeley). The DBP’s aim is

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Fig. 13.1  Map of Bahrain showing key Bronze and Iron Age settlements, including Umm Jidr mound cemetery. Image modified by B. W. Porter from Google Earth 2011 (Image: US Geological Survey; Data: SIO, NOAA, US Navy, NGA, GEBCO; © Cnes/Spot Image)

to analyze and publish a mortuary assemblage from the Dilmun civilization of the third–first millennia BCE Arabian Gulf. These skeletal remains and associated artifacts were excavated from burial mounds on the island of Bahrain by Peter B. Cornwall in 1940–1941 (Fig. 13.1). He donated them to the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology at UC Berkeley not long after, where they were safely curated but little studied until the DBP’s formation (Porter and Boutin 2012). We have found the assemblage to be a rich archive for investigating Dilmun’s ­inhabitants, and their mortuary rituals, embodied identities, and economic networks (Boutin and Porter 2014). The person whose remains are subjected to three styles of interpretation here lived during the late third/early second millennium BCE, which archaeologists call the Early Dilmun period (Potts 1990, pp. 192–231). He had been laid to rest in one of the many burial mounds that dotted the landscape, in this case in the Umm Jidr mound cemetery near the island’s western coast (Porter and Boutin 2012, Table 1).


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His burial was accompanied by 11 bones from a sheep or goat, most likely from a recently butchered animal but, unusually for Early Dilmun mortuary assemblages, no objects accompanied him to the afterlife (Boutin and Porter in press). Disciplinary standards for the collection and analysis of morphological and metric data from the skeleton were employed and are provided in detail in Porter and Boutin (2012, p. 40).

Interpretation #1: Analytical Style, Technical Language The interpretation that follows adheres to the analytical style and employs technical language, making it the model with which most academic professionals are accustomed. A version of it appears in a chapter of an edited volume to be published by the University Press of Florida’s “Bioarchaeological Interpretations of the Human Past: Local, Regional, and Global Perspectives” series (Boutin and Porter in press). Books from this series are available on the University Press of Florida’s website ( and, and retail prices range from approximately 20–40 USD for paperback and 75–120 USD for hardcover. Based on pelvic and cranial morphology, this Dilmunite person was male. Progressive degeneration of the pubic symphyses and auricular surfaces suggest that he was at least 70 years old when he died. From the maximum length of the femur, his stature is estimated at 5 feet 6.7 in. tall, an inch or so taller than other men in the Bronze Age Near East. No skeletal evidence (e.g., cribra orbitalia or porotic hyperostosis, periosteal reactions) is present for chronic malnutrition or infectious disease, or for traumatic injury, during growth and development or adulthood. A long lifetime of physical activity is evident throughout this person’s skeleton. In terms of robusticity, humeral indices (vertical diameter of head, biepicondylar width) and femoral indices (maximum diameter of head, midshaft circumference) are within one standard deviation of the mean for males from an ancient Near Eastern comparative sample. However, the deltoid tuberosities of both humeri are strongly hypertrophied and rugose. The minimum circumferences of the humeri at midshaft either meet (left side) or exceed (right side) one standard deviation above the mean for males from the comparative sample. This latter fact, coupled with the lateralized degeneration of the right shoulder discussed below, suggest that this male may have been right-hand dominant. Mild-to-moderate degenerative joint disease (DJD) is systemic throughout this male’s body, becoming more severe in the right shoulder, facet joints of three ­cervical vertebrae (C3–5), lower lumbar vertebral bodies (L3–L5), hips, and knees. Significant osteophyte growth on the articular margins of the right humeral head would have made movement stiff and painful, but extensive eburnation here and on the glenoid fossa suggest that the right shoulder joint was still in use during his last weeks and months. Osteophyte formation on the distal femora, more extensive on the left side, indicates degeneration of both knee joints. The articular surface of the left patella (the only one extant) exhibits macroporosity and destruction of the subchondral bone, suggesting that the severity may have been lateralized (Fig. 13.2).

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Fig. 13.2  Degenerative joint disease of elderly male 12-10152. Posterior surface of left patella (a) and medial view of proximal right humerus (b). Courtesy of the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology and the Regents of the University of California, Photography by the author, (Catalog No. 12-10152)

This male also experienced extensive antemortem tooth loss. His mandible is edentulous, and many of his maxillary teeth had fallen out, leaving only five maxillary incisors and canines at the time of his death. The one extant tooth (right maxillary lateral incisor) exhibits heavy wear, but no caries or linear enamel hypoplasias. Resorption of all posterior alveoli is extensive, suggesting that their loss occurred many years before death. The resorption of the anterior alveoli is less advanced, so they may have been lost more recently. Moderate DJD of the right temporomandibular joint is evident. The left side is unaffected. Atrophy of the right half of the mandible is also apparent, perhaps caused by a preference for the non-arthritic left side when chewing. The atrophied and edentulous nature of the mandible would have given this male’s lower face a sunken and asymmetrical appearance.

Interpretation #2: Analytical Style, Colloquial Language This interpretation is also written in an analytical style but with colloquial language that is more accessible to the general public. It appeared in a traveling museum exhibit entitled “From Death to Life in Ancient Bahrain.” Featured on the panel “Skeletal Remains of an Old Man,” which was hung next to a diagram showing which bones of his skeleton had been recovered, it provided basic contextual information for the facial reconstruction mounted nearby (Fig.  13.3). The exhibit has been mounted at Sonoma State University’s Library Gallery (Rohnert Park, California: August 15–October 13, 2013), the Badè Museum of Biblical Archaeology


A. T. Boutin

Fig. 13.3 Facial reconstruction of elderly male 12-10152 by forensic artist Gloria Nusse. Photography by B. W. Porter

(Berkeley, California: September 15, 2014–January 7, 2015), and Sacramento State University’s Anthropology Museum (Sacramento, California: March 3–May 8, 2015). Although all occurred on college campuses, the exhibit venues were free and open to the public. At the Sonoma State exhibit alone, over 1000 visitors were recorded by door-counter. Judging by the shape of the associated pelvis, this ancient Bahraini individual was male. Degeneration of his pelvic joints reveals that the “old man” was at least 70 years old at the time of death. The length of his femur (thigh bone) reveals that he would have stood approximately 5 feet 7 in. tall, an inch or so taller than other Middle Eastern men living at that time. His great age is evident in osteoarthritis throughout his skeleton: it is especially severe in the lower back, knees, and right shoulder. The bone surfaces of the right shoulder are polished, suggesting that he was still using this joint—despite almost certain pain—during his last days. Almost all of the “old man’s” teeth had fallen out many years before his death, leaving only the front teeth of the upper jaw (only one of which was recovered during ­excavation). Arthritis in his right jaw joint, near the ear, may have caused him to favor the left side while chewing. This is suggested by the atrophy of the mandible (lower jaw bone) on the right side. As a result, his lower face would have looked sunken and asymmetrical.

Interpretation #3: Affective Style, Colloquial Language This final interpretation, a fictive osteobiographical narrative, is written in an affective style, using colloquial language that is intended to be easily read and understood. Evidence for the inferences made in the narrative can be found in the

13  Writing Bioarchaeological Stories to Right Past Wrongs


footnotes. A version of this story was first published on the These Bones of Mine blog (Boutin 2015). I also read it during three lectures in 2016, at Arizona State University, University of California Los Angeles, and California State University Stanislaus. Although these lectures took place on college campuses, they were all free and open to (and attended by) members of the general public. The heat and dust rose in waves from the road as the young men padded by, their arms full of recently harvested dates.1 I envied them: my days of using my tall, strong body to contribute to the household were like my thick, black hair—both a distant memory.2 “Grandfather, your stew is ready.” It’s been many years since I was able to shimmy up the date palms,3 let alone chew my favorite date nut candy.4 But even the few teeth left in my head are enough to enjoy my granddaughter’s fishand-­vegetable stew (as long as she cooks it long enough and I remember to chew on the left side).5 Finding my walking stick with my left hand6 and being sure to keep my neck steady,7 I heave myself up with a grunt and make my way into the house.  Multiple lines of evidence suggest that date palms were an important crop, and dates a staple food, in the Early Dilmun period (Nesbitt 1993). The crown of the date palm must be accessed for pollinating, harvesting, and pruning. In pre-industrial times, this would have been done by climbing, up to tens of meters off the ground (Chao and Krueger 2007). It is likely that this task would have been undertaken by males rather than females, based on traditional gender roles in contemporary Old Babylonian Mesopotamia (Steele 2007). 2  Growing old in Mesopotamia was associated with bodily changes (gray or thinning hair, stooped, weaker bodies, impotence and menopause, etc.) and a loss of productivity. The elderly were no longer able to participate in many of the essential duties that able-bodied adults carried out to sustain their societies, such as household and extra-household production, military and labor projects, and sexual reproduction (Harris 2000). 3  A long lifetime of physical activity is evident throughout this male’s skeleton, based on skeletal indicators of robusticity (body size, shape, and mechanical loading; Ruff and Larsen 1990) and osteoarthritis (in which chronic stress on joints damages cartilaginous and bone surfaces; Ortner 2003, pp. 545–546). Indicators of robusticity from the humerus and femur range from average to larger than average compared to other males from the ancient Near East. Mild-to-moderate osteoarthritis is systemic throughout his skeleton, becoming more severe in the right shoulder, cervical (neck) and lumbar (lower back) vertebrae, hips, and knees. 4  Dental health in Dilmun was generally poor, and this male was no exception (see n. 5). Patterns of lightly worn molar enamel, high rates of caries (dental cavities), and extensive loss of teeth prior to death suggest that diets emphasized foods that were non-abrasive (such as fresh meat and fish, and grain that was not stone-ground) and high in carbohydrates (namely, sugar, of which dates and their byproducts were a likely source) (Littleton and Frohlich 1989, 1993). 5  This male lost many teeth prior to his death. No teeth remained in his mandible, and only five maxillary incisors and canines remained at the time of his death. Moderate osteoarthritis of the right temporomandibular joint is evident, although the left side is unaffected. The right half of the mandible is atrophied, perhaps due to a preference for the non-arthritic left side when chewing. 6  Osteoarthritis at both knee joints is indicated by osteophyte formation (new bony outgrowths) on the distal femora, although it is more extensive on the left side. Likewise, the bone on the joint surface of the left patella (kneecap) is eroded and porous. A limp favoring the right leg could, in theory, have resulted from this degeneration of the left knee. 7  The left superior and inferior articular facets of the third, fourth, and fifth cervical vertebrae are porous and lipped, indicating severe degenerative joint disease. Movements of the head at the neck would have been painful on the left side. 1


A. T. Boutin

A wince and a groan as I raise my right arm to take the bowl.8 Ah well—if you live long enough to see your grandchildren, some aches and pains are to be expected.9

Discussion and Conclusion These three styles of interpretation are equally valid and equally deserving of dissemination, although the cost to access them varies starkly. Although the appropriate audience should be identified for each, it can be beneficial to present two of the styles together, so that readers can compare them. I have presented analytical and affective interpretations of a skeletal person in the same publication, which appeared in peer-reviewed venues aimed at academic audiences (Boutin 2011, 2012, 2016). As mentioned above, the analytical/colloquial interpretation appeared in a museum exhibit aimed at the general public, where it was presented alongside a facial reconstruction of the subject. At the first museum exhibit (Sonoma State), ethnographic data were collected, via participant observation, interviews, and online questionnaires, to assess its educational and emotional impacts on visitors. Future iterations of the exhibit will also feature affective/colloquial narratives, in an attempt to convey information about Early Dilmun and enhance viewers’ emotional connection with, and empathy for, this Dilmunite man. Ethnographic methods will again be employed to assess the extent to which the narratives are successful in these regards. Also planned is a wider-ranging online questionnaire that will ask members of the public to view, compare, and assess the effectiveness of these various writing styles and modes of interpretation in the context of the DBP. If anthropological research is conducted ethically and effectively, its end result should be to encourage fellow-feeling for people from whom one is distantly separated in space and/or time. However, these goals have too often been missed: the use of conventional writing styles, language, and publication venues has caused anthropologists (and academics in general) to Other both ourselves and the subjects of our research vis-à-vis the general public. I have argued here that these wrongs can be righted when affective modes of interpretation are used and findings are conveyed in colloquial language and widely disseminated. In the case of bioarchaeology, fictive osteobiographical narratives can cultivate empathy for past persons, so long as  Many osteophytes are present on the edges of the right humeral head’s joint surface, which would have made movement stiff and painful. But extensive polishing caused by bone-on-bone contact here and on the glenoid fossa of the scapula suggests that he continued to use his right shoulder joint during his last weeks and months. The increased severity of osteoarthritis in the right shoulder and the larger circumference of the right humerus suggest that he may have been right-handed, which could account for his ongoing use of this limb. 9  Based on textual evidence from first-millennium Mesopotamia (one of the only ancient Near Eastern settings for which it exists), men usually married for the first time in their mid-20s to early 30s. By this time, the “overwhelming majority” of them no longer had living fathers (Roth 1987, p. 737). Therefore, this male’s advanced age suggests that he would have been one of the rare few who lived to see his grandchildren grow up. 8

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their authors take care to maintain the autonomy of their subjects and identify which elements of the narrative represent evidence, interpretation, or imagination. When broadly disseminated, these narratives can demonstrate the relevance of bioarchaeology and its worthiness of government funding and rehumanize its practitioners to the public. In this way, bioarchaeologists can show how the “study of humanity” can help us remember that we are all human. Acknowledgments  I am deeply grateful to Jane Buikstra for her generous invitation to contribute to this volume. I also thank my colleagues on the Dilmun Bioarchaeology Project, especially Benjamin Porter, Jennifer Jacobs (ethnographer), and Gloria Nusse (forensic artist). Finally, all of these ideas come back to the encouragement and advice I received from my graduate advisor, Bob Preucel, who has my eternal gratitude.

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Chapter 14

Bioarchaeology and the Media: Anthropology Scicomm in a Post-Truth Landscape Kristina Killgrove

Introduction Bioarchaeology outreach begins with a gay caveman. Not literally, of course, but those two words launched hundreds of headlines in dozens of languages in April of 2011. An anomalously buried Copper Age skeleton was discovered during an archaeological dig outside Prague in the Czech Republic, and a video interview with the lead archaeologist1 effectively went viral because of the conflation of burial evidence with contemporary terms related to gender, sexual orientation, and ritual (Killgrove 2011). The game of media telephone began, with the Telegraph reporting the “First Homosexual Caveman Found” (2011) and the Daily Mail crowing that a “5,000-year-old Is Outed by the Way He Was Buried” (2011). As the story spiraled, with more and more outlets engaging in churnalism,2 anthropologists with their own scholarly blogs fought back against the onslaught of half-truths—and for the first time, the news media began to pay close attention. Having blogged for years, I dashed off a post on my platform, Powered by Osteons, with the tongue-in-cheek title “Gay Caveman! ZOMFG!” It was a mix of sarcastic takedown and informative critique, honed by my years of doing the same to the TV show Bones. The next day, heavy hitters in the field of anthropology outreach, paleoanthropologist Hawks (2011) and archaeologist Joyce (2011), similarly wrote  The video has since been taken down from, which is unfortunate as it was the only primary source material for the piece. The burial, as of this writing, has not been published in a scholarly journal. See also Chap. 10, for more information on this skeleton and the popular press reaction. 2  Churnalism is the practice in which a journalist, blogger, or media outlet presents a press release or a story written by someone else as reported news, often with no changes or very few changes to the original piece. The term was coined nearly a decade ago. See Jackson and Moloney (2016) and Knight (2011) for scholarly takes on the practice as it relates to traditional journalism. 1

K. Killgrove (*) Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA © Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019 J. E. Buikstra (ed.), Bioarchaeologists Speak Out, Bioarchaeology and Social Theory,



K. Killgrove

posts about the head-scratching story. And LiveScience was the first press outlet to pay attention (Pappas 2011). Then CNN posted a story online (Gast and Aarthun 2011) but also ran headlines on their TV channel critiquing the “gay caveman” media circus. Soon, Salon (Williams 2011), Jezebel (Hartmann 2011), Wired (Johnson 2011), and other outlets picked up on the reaction from experts. And all of this happened to coincide with the dates of the annual American Association of Physical Anthropologists conference, where there was more lively discussion. This example highlights two features—or perhaps they are bugs—of twenty-­ first-­century science communication: first, the tendency toward churnalism and click-bait in an era of rampant defunding of impartial news organizations and a speed-of-light, ad-driven news cycle and, second, the importance of finding contemporary relevance in stories about the past. The question I want to focus on in this chapter is not how the media screwed up the “gay caveman” story, though. That is better left to scholars of journalism. Rather, the question that those of us interested in anthropology scicomm should concern ourselves with is why the “gay caveman” went viral and how we can replicate that dissemination with legitimate stories even in this post-truth era. As anthropologists, we are trained to contextualize our research. The same can be done for the “gay caveman,” which became news in April of 2011. Just 5 months prior, President Obama signed into law the repeal of the US military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Just 2 months prior, the US Department of State began allowing passports to list birth parents of either gender, rather than only mother and father. And a few months later, New York state would become one of the first to pass a marriage equality act. These were huge turning points that tapped into the growing public consciousness about and acceptance of LGBTQ rights. In this context, a small obsession with a solitary bioarchaeological skeleton makes perfect sense. In the rest of this chapter, I outline the landscape of bioarchaeology journalism, unpacking the values that drive many of us to engage in scholarly public outreach and writing. I offer examples and tips for how to more effectively write and disseminate a piece of research, topical essay, or critique. But I have also provided suggestions for how anyone—including those who have neither the time nor the inclination to inject themselves into the media fray—can support scicomm outreach and help move the discipline of bioarchaeology forward to a more relevant future.

Anthropology Scicomm Values It goes without saying that science communication is built on a platform of factual dissemination, with a goal of explaining scientific studies to a broad audience. But it is also about tapping into contemporary social issues, advances, and problems in order to demonstrate the relevance of science to that audience’s lives. Some of the core values that underlie anthropology outreach are public intellectualism, community, teamwork, and diversity.

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Public Intellectualism We can start by asking, why talk to the public? Particularly in this new era where facts are dismissed and scientists viewed with skepticism and even outright contempt, why should we engage? One reason relates to scholarly publications and issues with access (e.g., Lende 2012; Smith 2012; Killgrove 2012). Given the paywalls that we anthropologists find most of our writings behind, engaging in public intellectualism becomes a bridge between for-profit publishers and a large public—including fellow researchers with substandard libraries, independent scholars, and science journalists—that cannot access either our data or, perhaps more importantly, our interpretations of those data. We should also be interested in using public intellectualism to present information outside of the ivory tower and to demonstrate its relevance to our understanding of humans today and in the past. Talking to the public means leaving the warmth and shared context of a scholarly community in an attempt to make inroads into a new one. That can be as difficult and scary as moving to a new state, changing jobs, or going into the field for a new research project. But as anthropologists, we also understand how to reframe and reinvent ourselves and our message depending on whom we are talking to. If we can draw on this training, we can be flexible public intellectuals who meet people where they are (Sabloff 2011). Benefits of public intellectualism also accrue to us, not just the public, as we work to tap into contemporary social issues, advances, and problems, demonstrating how we can learn from the past (Wilcox 2016). Talking to and writing for the public teaches anthropologists to communicate across multiple platforms and to diverse audiences. By extending and bending your writing skills to different outlets, you increase your ability to speak to audiences across disciplines. In a multidisciplinary field such as anthropology, that skill is useful in everything from publishing in a way that multiple audiences can read it to developing a broader impact statement for a successful grant proposal (Andrews et al. 2005). The more people who can understand your message, the better that message propagates. Public intellectualism has a long history in anthropology. Starting with Margaret Mead, anthropology had influence on public policy, as her work ranged through gender issues, race and intelligence, Native American rights, and cross-cultural habits in an era of world wars. She was elected to numerous scientific academies and posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Less well known in the academic community is Mead’s coauthorship of a regular column in Redbook Magazine from 1962 to 1978. Her popular contributions in the form of short pieces on sex, marriage, gender, race, and more formed an essential part of second-wave feminism (Rapp 2003). And later in life, she was a physically recognized presence in her ubiquitous cape and walking cane (Lutkehaus 2008). Aside from Mead, other anthropologists dipped their toes in the popular media. Ashley Montagu, who is perhaps most well known for his criticism of race as a biological reality, wrote popular press books, appeared multiple times on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson as well as What’s My Line and the $64,000


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Question, and wrote and directed a documentary about nuclear weapons (Sperling 2000). Froelich Rainey, one of the pioneers of combining ethnographic and archaeological evidence in his research, also hosted a weekly Peabody Award-winning TV show called What In The World?, which ran for 15 years starting in 1949 (Irving 1992). Other anthropologists have won the National Book Award, been profiled in Time, appeared on 60 Minutes, and been embraced by the Black Panthers (Shankman 2016). These are all forms of public intellectualism, and yet they have very different methods of delivery and different intended audiences. They also date back several decades. Since these early forays into mass public outreach, anthropology has become less well known and less unified as a discipline, with a diversification of our four fields (Sabloff 1998, 2011). Diversity is now a key tenet of the practice of anthropology in all its forms, but in terms of public intellectualism, the splintering of anthropology has created something of an outreach vacuum (Bird 2010, de Koning 2013; see also #AAAFail as covered in the New York Times by Wade 2010, among others). While many of us have written pop-sci type books over the years, we have also unfortunately left openings for allied researchers like Jared Diamond to occupy a space that was once ours. To position yourself as a public intellectual, then, you first need to define your audience—that is, you need to think about what niche you will reach out to and how you can build an audience for it (Yong 2016). Do you want to talk to the news media, providing quotes about press releases, corrections to news items, or op-eds? You will need to reach journalists or science writers who engage in those media or develop a relationship with an editor or editorial board. Do you want the next generation to learn about anthropology? You will need to offer an after-school club, reach public school teachers who create and give lesson plans, or lobby your local or state educational board to provide teachers with the leeway to incorporate anthropology in the classroom. Are you trying to talk to your interlocutors or their descendent populations, whose history and culture you are studying or writing about? There are likely foreign-language venues like radio stations or newspapers you can tap into. Or perhaps you want to start with a population you are already familiar with: undergraduates. For this audience, you may need to learn how to effectively engage in social media and follow the waxing and waning popularity of Web 2.0 platforms. Above all, public intellectualism requires a commitment to flexibility in communication and a willingness on the part of all anthropologists to encourage our colleagues to form communities, engage in teamwork, and diversify our membership and our approaches.

Diversity Science as a whole continues to suffer from a diversity problem. Although the gender balance in science has changed since second-wave feminism started questioning the disparity, there are clearly still issues, especially at the senior level, where far

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more men than women hold positions (Ahmed 2016; Blickenstaff 2005; Sah 2016). Science has also been called “embarrassingly white,” with a shockingly small amount of national (US) grant funding going to African-Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans as principal investigators but also a low amount of research funding going to investigate problems that affect nonwhite people and communities (Hernandez 2015). The good news is that as anthropologists, we are in a position to combat very white, very (older) male, very cis-gendered science with better outreach. The bad news is that anthropologists who fall outside of this traditional mold might still face obstacles in becoming public intellectuals and engaging in outreach (Clancy 2016; Goldman 2016; Lee 2016; Roca 2016). Social media is sometimes heralded as the “great equalizer”—with little up-front cost and the ability to reach people around the world, Web 2.0 is theoretically a way for diversity in faculty, students, and research topics to shine through (Humphreys 2016). But academia as a whole is also quite hierarchical, with a publish-or-perish mentality that does not provide much breathing room for nontraditional writing, outreach, or public intellectualism (McClain and Neeley 2014). Even if anthropology students are becoming more diverse as a population, the lack of diversity and inertia in senior positions may stifle the creativity of the younger generation of scholars trying to get their degree and a job in a sluggish market. Katy Meyers Emery and I found (2015) while surveying bioarchaeology blogging a couple years ago that it was being done exclusively by early-career scholars and mostly by women. Since the number of female students in biological anthropology has soared in recent years (Turner 2002), the predominantly female skew to bioarchaeology blogging makes sense in that context. Studies of gender and career level in science outreach as a whole have found similar statistics, however. Early career scientists are more likely to engage in outreach, with women more likely to do it than men (Andrews et al. 2005; Ecklund et al. 2012). Katy Meyers Emery and I also hypothesized that the lack of bioarchaeology blogging is due primarily to constraints on content (e.g., ethical considerations in displaying human remains) and on time and effort (e.g., why blog when you could write an article?). The costbenefit issue has been studied in relation to science blogging, with scientists reporting that having limited time constrains their ability to do outreach that may not help advance their careers (McClain and Neeley 2014; Andrews et al. 2005; Rowlands et al. 2011). However, there has been little in the way of comprehensive assessment of social media outreach in science, so more effort is needed in this realm to understand whether researchers who do engage in this form of outreach are indeed succeeding by ­reaching people they would not otherwise have reached (McClain and Neeley 2014; Griffin and Taylor 2013). More recently, Sue Sheridan (2017) collected an interesting list of social media sources for bioarchaeology.3 In terms of blogs, there appear to be a few new ones that are regularly updated, including one by a mid-career female bioarchaeologist (Halcrow 2017). Sheridan’s article demonstrates the fragmenting of information  Stojanowski and Duncan (2015) produced an earlier list of press release outlets but only touched vaguely on blogging and other forms of outreach. 3


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sources in her list of Facebook groups that disseminate bioarchaeology articles. While Katy Meyers Emery and I argued that blogging may be attractive for early-­ career bioarchaeologists as a way to make a name for themselves, to work through questions, and to create a more level playing field, the recent uptick in the number of (almost all senior) anthropologists with high-profile blogs on news and journal platforms (Sheridan 2017) suggests a growing interest in bioarchaeology outreach at all levels. Beyond gender and career-stage diversity, though, bioarchaeology needs more diversity in its public intellectuals to better cover the vast range of ancient populations we deal with. An easy way forward here is for senior scholars, particularly those with MA and PhD students, to encourage bioarchaeology outreach in all its forms and, if possible, to lead by example. Would a reporter from CNN have contacted me, just barely out of graduate school, for my take on the “gay caveman” if two tenured professors had not mentioned my blog in a favorable light? Quite likely not. Web 2.0 is fractured and fragmentary, which allows for multiple perspectives but also can make it difficult to sort out legitimate voices and sources from post-­ factual ones. With a little effort from senior scholars—encouraging their students’ voices, engaging in useful practices like getting blogs and groups listed on departmental web pages, and replying to journalists by asking them to reach out to younger and more diverse scholars as well—we may see a shift in who is willing to put themselves out there. Having backup is always important.

Community and Teamwork Building and participating in a community is essential for scholarly public outreach. While this community should be diverse, it also needs to rally around major messages or themes within the discipline. Academics are often conditioned to criticize and peer review others’ work and to write largely independently, but outreach is more effective when it is widely supported and when done as part of a team. Think of social media as a virtual conference hallway or poster session—what kinds of conversations do you have when you are face to face with someone whose work you are interested in? If a junior colleague or student walks by, how can you bring them into the conversation as a participant so that they can effectively network? Answers to these questions can easily be applied to the social media realm by moving or continuing conversations on social media in the form of a Facebook group or a Twitter hashtag, and by encouraging colleagues and students to participate in a way that involves less pressure than introducing themselves to senior scholars at a conference. The community can evolve to include the public as well, such as through a Facebook page, which builds a new audience out of people who would not normally attend a conference but are nevertheless interested in the topic and enjoy hearing from experts. Bioarchaeology is not currently well represented on Instagram or Snapchat, but the changing nature of social platforms means we should be flexible and boost our signal and message across multiple platforms.

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Returning to our virtual poster session, what would you say if a member of the press approached you to ask about the significance of your work? We tend to imagine our professional conferences as closed meetings, but they are open to anyone who wants to register, and we should always be prepared for our work to be covered—by the media but also by attendees live-tweeting or otherwise publicizing the content. If you do not want your presentation to be covered by the media or bloggers, place an easily recognizable graphic (such as a crossed-out Twitter icon) on the slides or the poster. But if you are amenable to this type of outreach, this is where teamwork comes in. The media is not our enemy but rather a member of our team in our attempts to better inform the public about our findings. Sometimes we get bombarded by churnalism, as outlets simply rehash press releases, but most science journalists and science communicators want to produce an interesting, clickable story as quickly as possible and may be employed by outlets such as LiveScience, Seeker, National Geographic, The Atlantic, Forbes, NPR, The New  York Times, Slate, or Mental Floss. Research universities also tend to have a press arm poised to write about new discoveries their faculty and students make. It is important, then, to recognize the differences between press releases and science news items, between blog posts and Storifys, and between legitimate news outlets and tabloids (Killgrove 2016a; Maldonado 2016a). Providing journalists with short summaries, quick responses, and suggestions for additional people to talk to is an easy way to become a member of a media team that you can call on in the future to signal-boost your message. In order to effectively engage in bioarchaeological science communication, or to effectively support it, first we need to recognize the value of public intellectualism, and second we should encourage diversity, community, and teamwork in its accomplishment. The following section offers practical examples for how to craft an effective message and how to support scholars who are doing this outreach.

Writing Anthropology for the Public If you have read this far, you are clearly interested in communicating anthropology to a larger audience than just your colleagues and students. But what are you doing to get the word out there? Do you live-tweet conference talks? Post summaries of conference sessions or public talks on your personal/professional blog? Did you make your last presentation accessible via post-event video, or your last conference viewable via livestreaming, or your colloquium approachable by a science journalist? Have you contributed syntheses of new research to a collaborative outlet like a Facebook group or email listserv? Are you interested in writing a blog, an op-ed, a petition, a crowdfunded campaign, a press release, or other public-facing piece and are not sure where to start? Or are you following people who do these things? I start with these questions to demonstrate that there is a range of engagement being done by professionals in the field, from microblogging on the social media platform Twitter to international news pieces by writers like me (Rocks-Macqueen


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and Webster 2014). You do not need to confine yourself to one outreach method and rather should figure out what works for you – your strengths as a scholar, your work/ life balance, and your stage in your career. If you do have a message you want to get out, this section gives some practical advice about how you can more effectively do it.

Developing a Message While I cannot tell you which of the huge variety of outreach methods listed above is right for you (see Clack and Brittain 2007 for more ideas), I can tell you that developing your message is pretty much the same for all of them. It all comes down to front-loading your information. This may seem counterintuitive, especially for the more humanistically focused anthropologists who are used to carefully building an argument, but putting your takeaway message front and center obviates the “tl;dr” tag you are likely to get if you bury the lede. Have you ever seen a blockbuster movie trailer, especially one with the “In a world where…” convention? That is actually a great way to workshop your message. To take an example, here is the title from one of my recent peer-reviewed articles (Killgrove and Montgomery 2016): “All roads lead to Rome: Exploring human migration to the Eternal City through biochemistry of skeletons from two Imperial-era cemeteries (1st–3rd c ad).” Fellow bioarchaeologists might be intrigued by this, but for the public: snoozefest! But in a world where slaves were flooding into Rome, one bioarchaeologist is studying diseases on skeletons to solve the mystery of their lives and deaths! This is more interesting and thought-­provoking to a broader audience than saying that I collated paleopathological and paleodietary data with isotope results on migration to investigate acculturation. The hypothetical movie trailer is not untrue; rather, it is encapsulated in common, attention-getting terms and not discipline-specific jargon. Obviously, you should not directly use your “In a world where…” mental exercise in your outreach. But this is a quick and easy way to get into the mindset of people who want to learn about the latest findings in bioarchaeology—because everyone likes skeletons—and to meet them where they are. In order to do that, you should consider where your research question fits into a broader question, the field at large, or contemporary trends in our society. This will further produce benefits the next time you need to address the NSF’s broader impacts statement or answer the infamous Question 5 on the Wenner-Gren grant application. If you can situate your published research or your proposed research in a larger context, you can make it relevant to the general public. Once you narrow down an audience, delivery platform, and style and after you have honed your message, you should ensure that message gets communicated through your own outreach or through your teamwork with members of the media and press agents. Having a message and staying on message is important for avoiding a telephone game-like propagation of misinformation.

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It is also key to ensure that collaborators are on the same page. Too often, collaborators put out competing press releases about a particular project or article. This is difficult for members of the media, who need to choose whether to use the first press release put out, the press release from the first author’s institution, the press release from the highest-ranked institution, the one with the most pictures and quotes, etc. Competing press releases also tend to disadvantage those of us who do not work at research universities with good PR or marketing departments. If you are a member of a research team, you should ensure that contributors—especially early-­ career, female, and diverse members—get credited appropriately in press releases, blog posts, and other communications and that all outreach and press about the project carries the same message. Getting your message out is much easier if you show a united front.

DIY Outreach Once you have decided on a message and have ensured your collaborators are on the same page, how do you get it out? There are two main ways—you can do it yourself, such as through a blog, or you can enlist the help of people in public relations or science journalism. The do-it-yourself approach through blogging is the easiest, as there is no up-­ front cost; it is flexible in terms of length, purpose, and time; and it is reasonably close to traditional peer-reviewed writing formats in anthropology (Cassimally 2016). The difference is that the audience is theoretically everyone interested in the topic, and not just those who can access and interpret your article. You might have your own blog, you might be able to post to your university’s or college’s website, or you may contribute to a collaborative blog. Currently, there are no collaborative bioarchaeology blogs, but it would be trivial for an organization, a journal, or even a graduate collective to start one. These are some general tips for writing a summary or précis of a published article, ongoing research, or conference presentation: 1. The piece should be about 700–800 words or shorter if possible. This is a good length for what people are willing to read while perusing their social media feed. The majority of my news items at Forbes are in the 800-word range. Very few outlets have long-form articles these days (e.g., The New  Yorker), and online magazines that publish those pieces tend to be staffed by journalists and have a target audience of college-educated professionals (Pew Research 2012). 2. Front-load the information by putting the most relevant parts in the title and then reiterating that information in the first sentence or two. Then create a bit of mystery at the end of the first paragraph that encourages someone to read on. We can take as an example my 19 October 2016 Forbes post titled: “Skeleton of Medieval Giantess Unearthed from Polish Cemetery.” The first paragraph reads: “Just outside of the Medieval church of the Ostrów Lednicki stronghold in Poland,


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archaeologists from the Museum of the First Piast at Lednica have unearthed the strange burial of a giantess. The woman’s skeleton showed that she reached a towering height of 7’2” but also that her short life was full of traumatic injuries and disease” (Killgrove 2016b). If a reader clicks through based on the title or accompanying skull photo, they will likely read at least the first paragraph, which provides information about the skeleton in question but also encourages them to read on—or at least to skim it. 3. Make sure to use evocative and approachable language, the way you would explain something to one of your students who is still learning and who does not have the shared context of disciplinary jargon. For example, rather than saying that a past population “fomented sociopolitical restructuring,” you can say that they “contributed to political upheaval.” Rather than discussing “widespread periostitis bilaterally on the tibiae and fibulae,” you can talk about “an extra, thin layer of bone on the lower legs.” Changing the language that you use should not be “dumbing it down”—rather, in sociolinguistic parlance, you are using a different register to effectively reach a particular audience. Writing in a different register can be challenging for the uninitiated, but there are quick ways to check this, such as by using Microsoft Word’s “readability statistics.” These will calculate automatically the Flesch Reading Ease score and the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score, both of which are useful if your goal is to write for a general public (Flesch 1979). A plurality (44%) of American adults read at an intermediate level, with another 43% reading at a basic or below basic level, which means that the average US adult is reading at about an eighth grade reading level (Kutner et al. 2005). Readability statistics can therefore help you structure your writing to employ shorter sentences and more commonly understood words. 4. Include pictures, as people are more likely to click on a link shared on social media if it has a photo of a skull, skeleton, or grave associated with it (Rogers 2014; Mellow 2016). This instruction can, obviously, present an ethical or even legal problem, depending on the population you work with (Meyers Emery and Killgrove 2015; Stemwedel 2016). NAGPRA guidelines or your employer’s rules may not allow you to publish images at all or except within the boundaries of a research publication. If it is possible to include a photo in a press release, blog post, or other media coverage, choose one that includes a skull, a recognizable pathology, or a skeleton in situ. If it is not possible to share a photo, there are ways around this. Using a photo that has been altered to blur or black out bones may be effective (see Killgrove 2015a), or using an out-of-copyright or public domain image that relates to the story can also work (see Killgrove 2015b). 5. Finally, but perhaps most importantly, make sure your write-up checks off most of Freeman Tilden’s (1957) wonderful principles of heritage interpretation. Adapting those to the purposes of bioarchaeology outreach, your story needs to be: (a) Relatable—Why should people read it? We tend to think of our subject as being of interest to everyone, but that is not always the case. Can you relate

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the major theme or message of your piece to something in contemporary society? Relatability is one of the reasons the “gay caveman” went viral, as it tapped into a wave of culture change. (b) Provocative—Does it make people think or wonder? On a small scale, your first sentence or second should provoke readers into reading further. But on a larger scale, when the reader is finished, will they think or wonder about the applicability of this research to other questions? The popularity of two of my Forbes pieces on the skeletons of castrati (Killgrove 2015b; Killgrove 2016c) and associated comments suggest that these findings might lead people to think about transgender individuals in contemporary society, making a link that was only implied in my pieces. (c) Holistic—The piece should stand on its own, by including enough context for the reader to understand it. While most readers will be at least vaguely familiar with the time, place, and even culture evoked by the “Roman Empire,” you cannot a priori assume a familiarity with the past. Clear dates, a geographical landmark or two, and brief information about culture are necessary in the first few sentences or paragraphs to set the scene as quickly as possible. T