Building a Bioarchaeology of Care

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

'Bioarchaeology of care' is a formal framework for analyzing cases of past caregiving in a contextualized and systematic manner. In bioarchaeology, health-related care is inferred from evidence in human remains that indicate survival with a disabling pathology when the individual would likely not have reached the actual age at death without care. Caregiving practices can potentially reveal a society's norms, values and beliefs. Additionally, caregiving can provide insights into societal knowledge, skills and experiences as well as political, economic, social and environmental variables. Despite its potential for providing a window into such aspects of past behavior, caregiving has been neglected as a topic for archaeological research. To alleviate this problem the Index of Care was created as an on-line instrument supporting application of a bioarchaeology of care methodology. Building a Bioarchaeology of Care consists of perspectives from three continents for developing theory and practice into a cohesive framework. Presenters will discuss the possibilities and pitfalls for Index of Care use, explore approaches for integrating care analysis in other areas of archaeology (e.g. mummification literature in context of caregiving), identify new directions for research, and propose strategies for communicating findings and stimulating debate.

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  • Documents (15)

  • The Bioarchaeological Evidence for Elder Care in Roman Britain (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Rebecca Gowland.

    The elderly are the most neglected demographic in archaeology. In today’s youth-obsessed society the elderly are consistently denigrated, particularly those perceived to be physically or mentally frail. This negative construction is partly a consequence of an unprecedented ageing population, often conceptualised as problematic and burdensome to society. A related and growing concern in contemporary populations is the physical abuse of the elderly, believed to be an escalating, demographically...

  • Cared for or Outcasts? The bioarchaeological analysis of two individuals with potential disabilities from Aztec Ruins (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Alyssa Willett. Ryan Harrod.

    This project focuses on the assessment of individuals who appear to have held a lower status, worked harder, and been at more risk for trauma then other members of the same community. The West Ruin site of Aztec Ruins is an important site in the U.S. Southwest that came into prominence after the decline of Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon. Within this site there are two individuals who appear to have suffered significant traumatic injuries that healed. Both individuals were young adults; one...

  • Caring for Bodies or Simply Saving Souls: the emergence of institutional care in Spanish Colonial America (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Julie Wesp.

    During the early 16th century, the recent appearance of institutions specializing in care in Europe spread to the Americas. Unlike our modern perceptions of these healthcare institutions where you can seek help for illnesses that affect the body, the colonial period institutions were primarily run by religious groups and may have been more preoccupied with providing spiritual care for the indigenous populations. While this divergence of caring for bodies to caring for the souls may seem...

  • Digitised Diseases: seeing beyond the specimen, understanding disease and disability in the past (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Andrew Wilson. Keith Manchester. Jo Buckberry. Rebecca Storm. Karina Croucher.

    Digitised Diseases is a major web-based 3D resource of chronic disease conditions that manifest change to the human skeleton. The resource was established through funds from Jisc, the University of Bradford and Bradford Visualisation. The multi-disciplinary team involving project partners MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) and the Royal College of Surgeons of England undertook a programme of mass digitisation of pathological type specimens from world-renowned archaeological, historic and...

  • Making the Bioarchaeology of Care Methodology Public: Understanding the Roles of Ethics, Communication and Public Engagement in a Novel Approach to Physical Impairment in the Archaeological Record. (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only David Mennear.

    This presentation will discuss the public perception and communication of the Bioarchaeology of Care approach and the accompanying Index of Care program. The ethical considerations of the methodology, as an integral feature of working with human skeletal remains, will also be considered and discussed within a consideration of who ‘owns’ the past and, more specifically, who (if anyone) owns the remains of individuals. In particular it will focus on individuals who are described as disabled, or...

    DOCUMENT Citation Only Marco Milella.

    Questions about the timing and modalities of the evolution of care-giving behaviors have a direct impact on our understanding of human cultural evolution and early social dynamics. Hypotheses on care-giving behaviors in Prehistory are usually developed on skeletal evidences documenting survival to seriously debilitating conditions. However, a theoretical framework to test these hypotheses is still missing. Therefore, we propose a model for care-giving behaviors in Prehistory starting from data...

  • Mummy studies and the soft tissue evidence of care (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kenneth Nystrom. Niels Lynnerup. Dario Piombino-Mascali.

    Evidence of care in the bioarchaeological record has focused on two broad circumstances; (1) long term survival with disability in which functional independence is impossible and (2) healed/healing trauma or illness that would have necessitated intervention or care to ensure recovery and survival. These conditions reflect relatively extreme, life-or-death circumstances and thus provide the clearest opportunity to observe care. The preservation of soft tissue, however, not only affords the...

  • Narrativizing a Bioarchaeology of Care: A Case Study from Ancient Dilmun (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Alexis Boutin.

    Since 2008, the Dilmun Bioarchaeology Project has been studying and publishing the materials from Peter B. Cornwall’s 1940-41 expedition to Bahrain and eastern Saudi Arabia, which now reside in the Hearst Museum of Anthropology at UC Berkeley. By analyzing these skeletal and artifactual remains, our multi-disciplinary team is adding to anthropologists’ understanding of how life was experienced and death commemorated in Dilmun. One of the most exceptional skeletons belongs to a young woman who...

  • A Post-Mortem Evaluation of the Degree of Mobility in an Individual with Severe Kyphoscoliosis Using Direct Digital Radiography (DR) and Multi-Detector Computed Tomography (MDCT) (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Gerald Conlogue. Mark Viner. Ronald Beckett. Jelena Bekvalac.

    Since 2010, the Bioanthropology Research Institute at Quinnipiac University, in collaboration with the Inforce Foundation, Cranfield Forensic Institute at Cranfield University and the Centre for Human Bioarchaeology, Museum of London, have established a temporary field radiographic facility under St. Bride’s Church, Fleet Street London in order to conduct a radiographic survey of the skeletal remains of 227 individuals from the 18th and 19th century interred in the crypt and retained in the...

  • The potential and challenges of constructing a bioarchaeology of care for a person with leprosy in the late medieval period (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Charlotte Roberts.

    Everybody suffered ill health at some point during their lives in the past. In late medieval England (12th-16th centuries AD) historical data suggest the availability of care and treatment of disease, but it is unknown how many, and which, people got access to care. There is also little direct evidence of specific care seen in skeletal remains beyond trepanation, amputation, and dentistry. Using the ‘Index of Care’ (IoC; Tilley and Cameron 2014), this paper describes bone changes of leprosy in a...

  • Potential Applications of the Bioarchaeology of Care Methodological Approach for Historic Institutionalized Populations (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Lori Tremblay Critcher.

    In the 19th century, mental institutions were created in the United States to provide care for the mentally ill. These state institutions of care were designed to serve as cultural buffers to protect mentally ill individuals from the harsh conditions that they would have otherwise been exposed to in other state institutions, such prisons or poorhouses. In this paper, I examine whether and to what extent Tilley’s (2012) "Bioarchaeology of Care" methodological approach provides a means to evaluate...

  • Surviving Trepanation: Approaching the Relationship of Violence and the Care of "War Wounds" through a Case Study from Prehistoric Peru (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Sarah Jolly. Danielle Kurin.

    The political instability that characterizes the early Late Intermediate Period (ca. AD 1000—1250) in Andean prehistory had widespread impacts on how people lived, ranging from changes in settlement patterns to an increase in skeletal trauma and infectious disease. This paper explores the social experiences of violence and its implications for healthcare, primarily through the analysis of a notable case study: a young male from Andahuaylas, Peru, whose skeleton evinces multiple lesions and...

    DOCUMENT Citation Only Lorna Tilley.

    The bioarchaeology of care is a case-study-based, contextualised approach for inferring and interpreting the experience of disability and health-related care response in the past that is based on evidence for experience of disease found in human remains. It is supported by the Index of Care, a non-prescriptive on-line instrument intended to assist researchers work systematically through the four stages of bioarchaeology of care analysis. This presentation opens with an overview of the...

  • Using the Index of Care on a Bronze Age Teenager with Poliomyelitis: From Speculation to Strong Inference (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Alecia Schrenk. Debra Martin.

    Bioarchaeology has come a long way in using differential diagnosis, attending to the Osteological Paradox, using biocultural frameworks to integrate different levels of analysis, and developing ways to work with small sample sizes and fragmentary remains. Designed by Lorna Tilley (U. Aukland), the Index of Care offers a new scientifically-based and systematic tool to collect and integrate a range of information in life history, disease processes, and cultural context. This online tool tests...

  • What moral and ethical considerations should inform bioarchaeology of care analysis? (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only David Doat.

    The aim of this presentation is to submit for discussion a proposition of an 'orientation map in Ethics' which may be useful for scholars engaged in Bioarchaeology of care. To this end, I present as a first step the main objections that have been raised in the literature to any attempt of inferring care toward disabled persons in prehistory. I suggest that most of these objections comes from two different ethical backgrounds: a number of them are motivated by the defense of a set of values which...