From Life History to Large Scale: Osteobiography as Microhistory

Author(s): Lauren Hosek

Year: 2017


Osteobiography, like other types of biographies, extends beyond the individual through entanglements with objects, landscapes, and social phenomena. The approach requires a multi-scalar analysis to understand how bodies both emerge from and create historical process. Osteobiographies are developed by tacking between an individual’s remains and the wider skeletal population to establish a contextualized life history. Conceptualizing osteobiography as a microhistory of human remains is one way in which bioarchaeologists may go beyond detailed descriptions of individual life histories recorded in bone. Microhistory, which has been variously defined and employed by historians and archaeologists alike, is here envisioned as the intersections between biography and large-scale and long-term phenomena. In this way, the body is viewed as a node conjoining overlapping temporalities, materials, and biographies, thereby combining the lived experience of an individual with other emergent temporalities and scales. By way of illustration, I present an osteobiography of an early medieval individual from the Czech Republic. The body becomes a site for the coalescence of scales, but also of different forms of evidence, as textual, archaeological, and osteological data inform the analysis. In emphasizing the relational, the historical, and the contingent, a microhistorical approach extends osteobiography beyond the case study.

Cite this Record

From Life History to Large Scale: Osteobiography as Microhistory. Lauren Hosek. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430623)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16056