Osteobiography: A Conceptual Framework

Author(s): John Robb

Year: 2017


Osteobiography provides a rich conceptual basis for understanding the past, but its conceptual basis has never been systematically outlined. It both stands in conceptual opposition to a traditional statistical approach to bioarchaeology modelled upon clinical studies in biomedicine, and is interdependent with it. As such, its position mirrors those of clinical case histories as opposed to statistical studies, participant-observation ethnography as opposed to quantitative sociology, and microhistory and biography as opposed to quantitative history. Such comparisons provide a framework for exploring the strengths and weaknesses of osteobiography. It is not merely a tool for engagingly illustrating the "typical" life history as established statistically. Rather, it allows us to understand issues which population studies cannot explore. These include both analytical directions (exploring the complexity of deeply layered data, understanding the role of contingency in human lives, integrating osteological and cultural evidence) and philosophical directions (the interaction of material and conceptual factors in the creation of human bodies, embodiment, the experience of time).

Cite this Record

Osteobiography: A Conceptual Framework. John Robb. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430621)


Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14374