A Prism or a Mirror? Reflections of a Hopewell Man

Author(s): Jane Buikstra; Jason King

Year: 2017


Interred within a deep, mounded and relatively elaborate tomb nearly two millennia ago, our Hopewell man lived approximately as many years as we have studied his remains. While his tissues have remained unchanged since excavation, our analytical gaze has witnessed near tectonic shifts in theoretical perspectives. The first interpretations, those of the senior author in zealous pursuit of her doctoral degree, were decidedly processual and lacked reflexivity. She spoke of status, for example, identifying our subject as one who had controlled disproportionate resources in life and after death. Today, having absorbed the post-processual critique and currently engaging the challenges inherent in interpreting intersecting identities, we return to our Hopewell man and his Illinois River valley community. How has his/our viewpoint changed across so many theoretical approaches, informed as well by increasingly sophisticated analytical methods?

In this presentation we first consider fundamental mid-20th century distinctions between bioarchaeological and osteobiographical approaches. Then we turn to interpretations colored by postprocessual visions of worldview. Finally, we enter a new osteobiograhic interpretative arena informed by agency, embodiment, personhood, and identity theories. Our assumption throughout is that osteobiography is a prism through which we view a community – or perhaps it is a mirror?

Cite this Record

A Prism or a Mirror? Reflections of a Hopewell Man. Jane Buikstra, Jason King. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430625)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -104.634; min lat: 36.739 ; max long: -80.64; max lat: 49.153 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 13230