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‘Where Individuals Are Nameless and Unknown’: Osteobiography Reveals the ‘Big Man’, the Ritualist, the Heiress, and the Priest

Author(s): Christopher Knüsel

Year: 2017

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Summary

In 1957, Christopher Hawkes (of the ladder of inference renown) wrote: "…. the most scientific and therefore the best, because the purest, kind of archaeology is the prehistoric kind, where individuals are nameless and unknown, and so cannot disturb our studies by throwing any of their proud and angry dust in our eyes."1 Because the social identity of the deceased cannot be identified from human remains without analysis, osteobiography, the bioarchaeological reconstruction of the lives and deaths of individuals from the past, is essential. This is as true for historic as for prehistoric people, not only for those ‘without history’, but even those named individuals who are said to be ‘historical’. This contribution introduces a Bronze Age ‘Big Man’, an Iron Age ritualist, a medieval aristocratic heiress, and an Archbishop of Canterbury (and martyr), a mix of the historic and prehistoric, all nameless without analysis and none throwing much dust in our eyes.

1Christopher Hawkes quoted in Evans (1998: 400). Source: Evans, Christopher 1998. Historicism, chronology and straw men: situating Hawkes' 'ladder of inference'. Antiquity 72(276): 398-404.


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‘Where Individuals Are Nameless and Unknown’: Osteobiography Reveals the ‘Big Man’, the Ritualist, the Heiress, and the Priest. Christopher Knüsel. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430631)


Keywords

Geographic Keywords
Europe


Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15733

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America