Bioarchaeology as Archaeology: Past Practices and Future Prospects

Author(s): Alexis Boutin

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "The Future of Bioarchaeology in Archaeology" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

This paper reflects on bioarchaeology as archaeology (after Armelagos 2003) by tracing the discipline’s past and identifying current research trends. Bioarchaeology’s roots run deep into the 20th century, but it was only in the late 1970s that it received its name in the U.S. and began to blossom as a discipline. The first generation of bioarchaeologists set the tone for this synergistic field, drawing on biocultural models, archaeological contexts, and clinical research. Because of their training in human skeletal biology, bioarchaeologists traditionally felt a professional kinship with biological anthropologists, which was reinforced by having to "choose sides" within the four-field structure of American anthropology. On archaeological projects, bioarchaeologists were commonly identified as specialists, whose reports were frequently relegated to the appendices. But second- and third-generation bioarchaeologists are reclaiming their archaeological heritage: training in human osteology is essential to a career in cultural resources management; overt theoretical orientations are now prioritized; and a new emphasis on community engagement recognizes the diverse groups who have a stake in the study bioarchaeological research. The paper will conclude with an example of how research on affective interpretations of bioarchaeological data should be of interest to, and benefit, all practitioners of archaeology.

Cite this Record

Bioarchaeology as Archaeology: Past Practices and Future Prospects. Alexis Boutin. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 451162)

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 23024