Ancient DNA and Bioarchaeology

Razib mentioned this study of ancient DNA. Although the study is being billed as important because it allows us to gain an understanding of the biological history of the skeletons studied, the research will also allow us to gain some insight into the culture of the people those remains represent:

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3,000 Year Old Mixtec Cremations

PNAS has an interesting paper on Mixtec cremations. I don’t have a copy yet (so if someone could email me a copy I would be eternally grateful – leave a comment so others will know it has been sent). The paper can be found here. Here is the abstract (to pique your interest):

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Small Bodied Humans From Palau

Palau is fast becoming an anthropological paradise. In addition to being one of the places Margaret Mead did fieldwork, we now have news that a large collection of skeletons have been found. Currently, the fragmentary remains of 25 individuals have been excavated, but others remain to be freed from their calcium carbonate matrix:

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Personology is for Crackpots

Steve has taken time off from getting the new blog ready to bring us news of some credulous reporting on CNN. The reporting concerns some new woo called “Personology” which seeks to determine personality based on various measures of the face and hair. Forensic anthropology and bioarchaeology are concerned with looking at skeletal variation through time and across space so research in these areas are relevant to the claims of personology. Before going further, let’s look at some of the claims of personology.

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Paleodemography and the Plague

Paleodemography, like demography, is concerned with mortality, fertility, population structure and life expectancy (among other things). Unlike demography proper, paleodemography rarely has written records such as birth and death certificates to draw on and has to rely on skeletal indicators of age, gender, etc. This has lead to some heavy criticisms of the field (“A Farewell to Paleodemography”, “Paleodemography: Not Quite Dead Yet”, etc. and yes the latter tittle is a Monty Python reference) which I don’t intend to discuss here. Suffice to say, the field has had to develop some interesting methodologies to overcome some of the limitations in the data of interest.

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When Did Humans Start Wearing Shoes: A Second Look

I originally blogged about this story in August of 2005 and reposted the story (twice actually) in May of 2006. Trinkaus has recently returned to the subject and analyzed some skeletal material from Sunghir and Tianyuan. I have tracked down both articles on the subject and will have more to say as soon as I have finished reading them…

Return of the Plague

No, stop duct taping your windows, that doesn’t mean what you think it means. Allow me to explain. My Scibling, Tara, recently did a wonderful four part series on what caused the plague. I bring this up because Science Daily mentions that a new study is out that examines the effects of the plague on human mortality.

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Syphilis: The View from Bioarchaeology

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases recently published an interesting article called On the Origin of the Treponematoses: A Phylogenetic Approach. The paper used data from 21 genetic regions in 26 geographically separated strains of the Treponema bacterium. Before looking at the results of the PLoS study, however, a little bit of background is in order.

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The Narrabeen Man: Another Post On Death By Spearing

Martin at Aardvarchaeology was kind enough to forward me the Antiquity article on the Narrabeen man. The article touches on several interesting issues.

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Death By Spearing: An Update

The research behind the story I wrote about here has been published in Antiquity (if anybody out there has access I would love a copy).
Update 1: I have the article now. More to come as soon as I have read it.