Extending Osteobiography: Disability, Care, Agency and Emotion

Author(s): Lorna Tilley

Year: 2017


Based on evidence in human remains suggesting survival despite functionally-limiting disability, the bioarchaeology of care approach infers provision of health-related care; identifies likely elements of this care; then explores the implications of care practices and outcomes for increased understanding of both the subject of care and their community. A comprehensive osteobiography of the care-recipient (framed within the individual’s lifecourse and lifeways, and acknowledging the centrality of individual agency in managing disability) is used reflexively throughout this process to interrogate aspects of the subject’s experience. So far, however, this analysis has neglected the role of emotion in shaping behaviours associated with disability and care. Most archaeological discussion of emotion to date has been curiously impersonal, concentrating either on generalised reactions to significant events (ritual sacrifice, violence) or landscapes, or on the ‘emotional identity’ invested in specific artefacts. In contrast, the impacts of serious disease - frightening, restrictive, demanding, unpredictable - evoke intensely personal emotional responses in sufferers and caregivers alike, and an archaeological focus on emotion in this context may be particularly rewarding. Using case study illustrations, this presentation looks at what happens to osteobiography when the bioarchaeology of care meets the archaeology of emotion.

Cite this Record

Extending Osteobiography: Disability, Care, Agency and Emotion. Lorna Tilley. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430633)


Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14659