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Estimating Age at Death of Archaeological Remains: A Comparison of Transition Analysis and Traditional Estimation Methods

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Objectives: The objective of this research is to develop a better understanding of the ways in which Transition Analysis estimates differ from traditional estimates in terms of age-at-death point estimation and inter-observer error. Materials and methods: In order to achieve

Objectives: The objective of this research is to develop a better understanding of the ways in which Transition Analysis estimates differ from traditional estimates in terms of age-at-death point estimation and inter-observer error. Materials and methods: In order to achieve the objectives of the research, 71 adult individuals from an archaeological site in northern Sudan were subjected to Transition Analysis age estimation by the author, a beginner-level osteologist. These estimates were compared to previously produced traditional multifactorial age estimates for these individuals, as well as a small sample of Transition Analysis estimates produced by an intermediate-level investigator. Results: Transition Analysis estimates do not have a high correlation with traditional estimates of age at death, especially when those estimates fall within middle or old adult age ranges. The misalignment of beginner- and intermediate-level Transition Analysis age estimations calls into question intra-method as well as inter-method replicability of age estimations. Discussion: Although the poor overall correlation of Transition Analysis estimates and traditional estimates in this study might be blamed on the relatively low experience level of the analyst, the results cast doubt on the replicability of Transition Analysis estimations, echoing the Bethard's (2005) results on a known-age sample. The results also question the validity of refined age estimates produced for individuals previously estimated to be in the 50+ age range by traditional methods and suggest that Transition Analysis tends to produce younger estimates than its traditional counterparts. Key words: age estimation, Transition Analysis, human osteology, observer error

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Date Created
2017-05

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Family, "foreigners [untitled]: a bioarchaeological approach to social organization at late classic Copan

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In anthropological models of social organization, kinship is perceived to be fundamental to social structure. This project aimed to understand how individuals buried in neighborhoods or patio groups were affiliated, by considering multiple possibilities of fictive and biological kinship, short

In anthropological models of social organization, kinship is perceived to be fundamental to social structure. This project aimed to understand how individuals buried in neighborhoods or patio groups were affiliated, by considering multiple possibilities of fictive and biological kinship, short or long-term co-residence, and long-distance kin affiliation. The social organization of the ancient Maya urban center of Copan, Honduras during the Late Classic (AD 600-822) period was evaluated through analysis of the human skeletal remains drawn from the largest collection yet recovered in Mesoamerica (n=1200). The research question was: What are the roles that kinship (biological or fictive) and co-residence play in the internal social organization of a lineage-based and/or house society? Biodistance and radiogenic strontium isotope analysis were combined to identify the degree to which individuals buried within 22 patio groups and eight neighborhoods, were (1) related to one another and (2) of local or non-local origin. Copan was an ideal place to evaluate the nuances of migration and kinship as the site is situated at the frontier of the Maya region and the edge of culturally diverse Honduras.

The results highlight the complexity of Copan’s social structure within the lineage and house models proposed for ancient Maya social organization. The radiogenic strontium data are diverse; the percentage of potential non-local individuals varied by neighborhood, some with only 10% in-migration while others approached 40%. The biodistance results are statistically significant with differences between neighborhoods, patios, and even patios within one neighborhood. The high level of in-migration and biological heterogeneity are unique to Copan. Overall, these results highlight that the Copan community was created within a complex system that was influenced by multiple factors where neither a lineage nor house model is appropriate. It was a dynamic urban environment where genealogy, affiliation, and migration all affected the social structure.

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2015