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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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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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Date Created
2015

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Engaging the Osteological Paradox: A Study of Frailty and Survivorship in the 1918 Influenza Pandemic

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Published in 1992, “The osteological paradox: problems of inferring prehistoric health from skeletal samples” highlighted the limitations of interpreting population health from archaeological skeletal samples. The authors drew the attention of the bioarchaeological community to several unfounded assumptions in the

Published in 1992, “The osteological paradox: problems of inferring prehistoric health from skeletal samples” highlighted the limitations of interpreting population health from archaeological skeletal samples. The authors drew the attention of the bioarchaeological community to several unfounded assumptions in the field of paleopathology. They cautioned that bioarchaeologists needed to expand their methodological and theoretical toolkits and examine how variation in frailty influences mortality outcomes. This dissertation undertakes this task by 1) establishing a new approach for handling missing paleopathology data that facilitates the use of new analytical methods for exploring frailty and resiliency in skeletal data, and 2) investigating the role of prior frailty in shaping selective mortality in an underexplored epidemic context. The first section takes the initial step of assessing current techniques for handling missing data in bioarchaeology and testing protocols for imputation of missing paleopathology variables. A review of major bioarchaeological journals searching for terms describing the treatment of missing data are compiled. The articles are sorted by subject topic and into categories based on the statistical and theoretical rigor of how missing data are handled. A case study test of eight methods for handling missing data is conducted to determine which methods best produce unbiased parameter estimates. The second section explores how pre-existing frailty influenced mortality during the 1918 influenza pandemic. Skeletal lesion data are collected from a sample of 424 individuals from the Hamann-Todd Documented Collection. Using Kaplan-Meier and Cox proportional hazards, this chapter tests whether individuals who were healthy (i.e. non-frail) were equally likely to die during the flu as frail individuals. Results indicate that imputation is underused in bioarchaeology, therefore procedures for imputing ordinal and continuous paleopathology data are established. The findings of the second section reveal that while a greater proportion of non-frail individuals died during the 1918 pandemic compared to pre-flu times, frail individuals were more likely to die at all times. The outcomes of this dissertation help expand the types of statistical analyses that can be performed using paleopathology data. They contribute to the field’s knowledge of selective mortality and differential frailty during a major historical pandemic.

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Date Created
2021

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Population structure and Frankish ethnogenesis (AD 400-900)

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The transition from Late Antiquity to Early Medieval Europe (ca. AD 400-900) is often characterized as a period of ethnogenesis for a number of peoples, such as the Franks. Arising during protracted contact with the Roman Empire, the Franks would

The transition from Late Antiquity to Early Medieval Europe (ca. AD 400-900) is often characterized as a period of ethnogenesis for a number of peoples, such as the Franks. Arising during protracted contact with the Roman Empire, the Franks would eventually form an enduring kingdom in Western Europe. However, there is little consensus about the processes by which they formed an ethnic group. This study takes a fresh look at the question of Frankish ethnogenesis by employing a number of theoretical and methodological subdisciplines, including population genetics and ethnogenetic theory. The goals of this work were 1) to validate the continued use of biological data in questions of historical and archaeological significance; and 2) to elucidate how Frankish population structure changed over time.

Toward this end, measurements from the human dentition and crania were subjected to rigorous analytical techniques and interpreted within a theoretical framework of ethnogenetic life cycles. Results validate existing interpretations of intra-regional biological continuity over time. However, they also reveal that 1) there are clear biological and geographical differences between communities, and 2) there are hints of diachronic shifts, whereby some communities became more similar to each other over time. These conclusions complement current ethnohistoric work arguing for the increasing struggle of the Frankish kingdom to unify itself when confronted by strong regionally-based politics.

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Date Created
2015

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Ethnicity, family, and social networks: a multiscalar bioarchaeological investigation of Tiwanaku colonial organization in the Moquegua Valley, Peru

Description

Many models of colonial interaction are build from cases of European colonialism among Native American and African peoples, and, as a result, they are often ill-suited to account for state expansion and decline in non-Western contexts. This dissertation investigates social

Many models of colonial interaction are build from cases of European colonialism among Native American and African peoples, and, as a result, they are often ill-suited to account for state expansion and decline in non-Western contexts. This dissertation investigates social organization and intraregional interaction in a non-western colonial context to broaden understanding of colonial interaction in diverse sociocultural settings. Drawing on social identity theory, population genetics, and social network analysis, patterns of social organization at the margins of the expansive pre-Hispanic Tiwanaku state (ca. AD 500-1100) are examined.

According to the dual diaspora model of Tiwanaku colonial organization in the Moquegua Valley of southern Peru, Chen Chen-style and Omo-style ethnic communities who colonized the valley maintained distinct ethnic identities in part through endogamous marriage practices. Biodistance analysis of cranial shape data is used to evaluate regional gene flow among Tiwanaku-affiliated communities in Moquegua. Overall, results of biodistance analysis are consistent with the dual diaspora model. Omo- and Chen Chen-style communities are distinct in mean cranial shape, and it appears that ethnic identity structured gene flow between ethnic groups. However, there are notable exceptions to the overall pattern, and it appears that marriage practices were structured by multiple factors, including ethnic affiliation, geographic proximity, and smaller scales of social organization, such as corporate kin groups.

Social network analysis of cranial shape data is used to implement a multi- and mesoscalar approach to social organization to assess family-based organization at a regional level. Results indicate the study sample constituted a social network comprised of a dense main component and a number of isolated actors. Formal approaches for identifying potential family groups (i.e., subgroup analysis) proved more effective than informal approaches. While there is no clear partition of the network into distinct subgroups that could represent extended kin networks or biological lineages, there is a cluster of closely related individuals at the core of the network who integrate a web of less-closely related actors. Subgroup analysis yielded similar results as agglomerative hierarchical cluster analysis, which suggests there is potential for social network analysis to contribute to bioarchaeological studies of social organization and bioarchaeological research in general.

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2016