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Beyond Broken Bones: The Value of Creating an Osteobiography when Analyzing Violence in the Past

Author(s): Ryan Harrod

Year: 2017

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Population level analyses of violence that are focused on quantifying and comparing traumatic injuries on human skeletal remains recovered from an archaeological context are crucial for understanding violent interactions through time and across regions. However, these types of studies are also limited because, by design, they place less emphasis on individuals and their lived experience. In contrast, when researchers create what Frank and Julie Saul called an osteobiography for each set of remains, they are attempting to reconstruct as much about each person as possible. An osteobiography tells a story about who the skeletal remains represent using an array of different osteological methods, which include age-at-death, biological sex, indicators of diet and nutrition, markers of activity, pathological conditions, and traumatic injuries. The result is that in addition to counting and describing trauma it is possible to place the individual into a larger sociopolitical context and begin to potentially understand why they were at risk of violent altercations, what the consequence of the resulting injury would have been, and how the culture viewed violence.

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Beyond Broken Bones: The Value of Creating an Osteobiography when Analyzing Violence in the Past. Ryan Harrod. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430635)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -115.532; min lat: 30.676 ; max long: -102.349; max lat: 42.033 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16155

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