Field Trip to Ampoița

I have been absent from the blog for several months because I’ve been working with my friend and collaborator Colin Quinn to prepare our first season of excavation in Alba County, Romania as part of the ongoing Mortuary Archaeology of the Râmeț Bronze Age Landscape project. This has entailed a number of exciting steps. Coordinating shuttle trips from Budapest to Cluj-Napoca! Ordering 500 Whirl-Pak geological sample bags! Filling out 15 pages of risk assessment forms for my home institution! Making a trip to the Dedeman hardware store in Alba Iulia every two days! What can I say – my life as a professional archaeologist is infinitely glamorous.

This is the fanciest thing I have ever done in the field.

We are here with three Hamilton College undergraduates, and have been trying to show them that there is more to Transylvania than 2x2m archaeological units. Last Saturday two local colleagues, Liviu Balăn and Raluca Burlacu, offered to take us on a trip to the neighboring Ampoi Valley, about a fifteen minute drive from Alba Iulia. We set out on a hike on the morning of June 16  to visit multiple archaeological sites strung out along the course of a mountain ridge line, including the “Castru Romana Ighiu” (Roman Fort at Ighiu), and an Early Bronze Age necropolis at Ampoița.

Parking down in town, the first major landmark visible on our trip was the Calcarele de la Ampoița, a massive limestone formation. These formations are often markers of Late Prehistoric sites in the region. This is a view from the tail end of the hike.

After parking and receiving the customary diplomatic attentions of the local dogs, we wound our way up through a muddy trek that ran in between fields and into the forest. We meandered upslope for about half an hour, before making it above the tree line, where a massive grassy slope opened before us, complete with the Transylvanian starter package™ of shepherd and flock, who greeted Liviu with a wave and a “Buna Ziua” as we drew closer:

A local shepherd, his flock, and his crew of extremely suspicious canine companions.

Turning to the east/northeast, we could  see the steep, rounded hilltop that housed the remains of the Roman fortress, along with the town of Șard spread out below.

The large hill in the foreground on the left is the hill home to the Roman fort. The town of Șard visible to the right, and the distant hill in between the fort and the town is called Bilag.

As we toiled upwards, the defensive advantages of the hilltop became increasingly obvious.

The students, laboring up the hill.

After taking a few minutes to recover, I learned a variety of important things. First, these salty pretzels with brânză (sheep’s milk cheese), provide a delicious means of controlling your salt balance and staving off dehydration.

Second, after much badgering of both Liviu and Colin (“which one is Piatra Craivii again?”) the unparalleled view from the hilltop provided an excellent locale for mastering local toponyms and topography.

As we lounged about vacuuming down cookies (as a direct result of archaeological fieldwork we are all now accustomed to a mid-morning sugar hit) and covrigei cu brânză, Liviu gave us some historical context for the site we were standing on.  The fortress is located across the Ighiu Valley from Piatra Craivii, a triangular peak which housed a Dacian fortress. The Romans, wanting to keep an eye on their pesky mountain neighbours, who had proved somewhat resistant to incorporation into the imperial sphere, set up shop directly across the valley. Liviu explained the fraught relationship between the Dacians and Romans, covering periods of war, periods of peace, and the rise of Trajan, the Roman emperor who finally conquered the area, largely drawn here by the region’s copious supplies of gold. In Rome, Trajan’s Column recounts the history of the Dacian conquest, and Liviu noted there is also a replica in the Romanian capital, which I hope to see at some point (side note, Alexandra Ion, I have big plans involving a visit to see you in Bucharest next summer…).

In which we learn about the Romans, the Dacians, and covrigei cu brânză.

Liviu also expressed his desire to work to make the Roman fortress a heritage site, ideally clearing the vegetation, putting up explanatory signs and placards, and filling in the large circular looter’s pit that dominates the pinnacle of the slope. I think it’s a wonderful idea; as an archaeologist and a tourist I would be drawn to the site because of both its history and the magnificent views it provides of the local landscape.

I forced everyone to sit around waiting for the clouds to clear in order to get a shot of the facade of Piatra Craivii, which is the stocky triangular peak projecting upwards in the middle of this photo:


After we’d had our fill of the Roman period, we headed back down the slope and further back in time. One of the reasons I’d been particularly excited about this field trip was that this same area is also home to a series of Early Bronze Age tombs that MARBAL collaborator Horia Ciugudean excavated back in the 1990s. Colin had mapped these out several years ago as part of his dissertation survey, and so we were able to locate them with minimal casting about the landscape.

Early Bronze Age tomb (previously excavated), identifiable by the limestone capstones covering the surface of the tumulus. Romanian archaeologist for scale.

Most of the tombs had been excavated several decades ago, but we could identify their remnants based on the abundance of limestone capstones, a typical feature of mortuary structures for this period in time.

The team standing along the edge of another excavated EBA tomb, further SW along the slope.

After we visited the tombs and Professor Quinn gave a brief lecture to the students expounding on their construction/location/regional context/archaeological importance, we headed back down into the woods, aiming for the Calcarele de la Ampoița. As with every Transylvanian I’ve met thus far, both Liviu and Raluca are avid mushroom hunters, so on our way back down we did some impromptu foraging.

Raluca examines a potential find.

Locally there are two kinds of large yellow mushrooms that look alike, but one is edible and the other is decidedly not. Raluca taught me that you can differentiate between the two because the underside of the inedible mushroom cap will changed colors when you press it with your finger, kind of like that fancy color-changing paper I remember being fascinated by as a grade school student.

DON’T EAT ME!

After hiking back into town, we finished off our day by visiting the institution of Mama Luţă, a local pension that is deservedly famous for its food. After expending so many calories on the hike, I felt it important to sample EVERYTHING Mama Luţă had to offer.

This included țuică, a traditional Romanian plum brandy. At Mama Luţă, I learned that there are two kinds of țuică: the ‘sweet’ kind (shown on the right, sweetened with cherries or berries), and the ‘tough’ kind, shown on the left, which is basically high octane moonshine.

“Sweet” and “tough” țuică

The pensione is also famous for its plăcinte,  a pastry that can be sweet or savory. Those shown below are filled with brânză sărată şi mărar (salty sheep’s cheese with dill), varză (cabbage), and cartofi (deliciously salted potatoes). All of these were served with sos cu usturoi (garlic sauce)

Plăcintă (savoury)

In order to sample a little bit of everything, I ordered the “Platou Mama Luța”, which came with “telemea, caş, cârnați de casă,şnițel de pui, jumeri, slăninuță, pastramă de porc, ou fiert, ceapă, ardei roşii, castravete“, or in order “ewe’s milk cheese, house sausage, chicken schnitzel, pork cracklings, fatback, pork jerky/sausage, hard-boiled egg, onion, red peppers, and pickles), as well as a side of hearty village bread.

Platou Mama Luța

We finally finished the meal with sweet plăcinte, served with brânză dulce (sweetened sheep’s cheese) and mere (apples), the latter being my favourite of the dessert offerings. These were all served with sos smâtână dulce (sweetened cream).

Plăcintă (sweet)

Plăcintă (sweet)

All in all it was a phenomenal day. Many thanks to Liviu and Raluca for their tour of local Roman period, prehistoric, and culinary institutions!

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SAA 2018 – Washington D.C.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, I’ve just returned to Cambridge from a recent bout of travel, this time to Washington DC for the Society for American Archaeology meetings.

This was an unusual conference for me. I’m slowly transitioning from working in one region (Iberia) into conducting research in a new area (Romania). As a result, all of the  background material that I rely on having previously prepared to slot into presentations had to be crafted from scratch. Constructing this new backdrop was a useful process, in that it made me delve more deeply into the regional literature, but also meant that putting together my presentations took longer than I am used to. My talk covered our initial research strategy in Transylvania, describing how we’re weaving together evidence from unstudied human skeletal remains in museum collections and new excavations of Early Bronze Age cemeteries in order to better understand how Late Prehistoric communities were organized.

This was also the first conference during which I co-authored a poster with a former student. Emilie Cobb, currently director of the Rankin Museum of American Heritage, spent three weeks in Romania with the MARBAL project last summer, helping to conduct a bioarchaeological analysis of human skeletal remains housed at the National Museum of the Union in Alba Iulia.

Our poster covered initial bioarchaeological analyses of Minimum Number of Individuals (MNI), age, sex, mortuary treatment, and frequencies of skeletal and dental pathologies

In DC, I also finally threw in the towel and gave in to embracing networking. Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a marked shift in my conference experience. Rather than trying to catch as many sessions as possible, as I did when I first started attending the SAAs in 2013, I’ve been spending far more time catching up with old friends and networking. Especially since I now live in the UK, I’m very deliberate about planning coffees, drinks, or meals with scholars I want to talk to. I outlined these strategies recently in a talk I gave as part of the Biological Anthropology Professionalization Series at Cambridge, which I plan to recap on the blog in the next few weeks.

This time around I had at least fifteen meetings or events planned over a three-day period, so I often found myself hurtling around the conference center like a pinball. However, I did make sure that I attended several talks given by close friends, starting with MARBAL co-director Colin Quinn‘s presentation on his work with Alice Wright mapping socio-economic networks in Woodland North Carolina titled “Confronting Myths of Isolation in Pre-Columbian Appalachia.”

After power-walking for a mile and half on Saturday morning, I arrived at Anna Antoniou‘s talk drenched in perspiration and sat beaming proudly in the back, ignoring the skeptical looks of fellow audience members who were no doubt wondering who had let this sweaty apparition into the conference center. She gave a phenomenal presentation (co-authored with her collaborator Earl Davis), titled”Collaborative Archaeology in Willapa Bay, Washington: Supporting Communities through Scientific Research”. Her talk detailed strategies for building relationships with local native communities and incorporating their interests and concerns into research design.


Finally, I swung by the National Geographic sponsored session “The Human Journey: Understanding Human Migration in the Past to Address Challenges for the Future,” specifically to hear a talk given by the youngest presenter, Bree Doering. As a motorcycle-riding, caribou-hunting, and salmon-fishing Alaskan, Bree is one of the most unrepentantly badass field archaeologists I know, and it was wonderful to see her channel her considerable energy into a talk on “Exploring the Cause of the Athabaskan Migration through Isotopic and Geospatial Evidence”.


With that, I’m done with conferences until I head to the European Association of Archaeologists meetings in Barcelona in September.

In the meantime, if you’d like to read our poster, it’s linked here on Academia.edu, while the abstract of our presentation can be found here.

For now, I’ll leave off with this memory of drinking afternoon beers on the lawn with some of my close friends – hopefully it’s enough to get me through this unrelenting spate of spring rains in Cambridge!

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Stable Isotope Analysis of Human Remains from Los Millares Cemetery (Almería, Spain, C. 3200-2200 Cal BC): Regional Comparisons and Dietary Variability

Last week I put up a post about my paper on the bioarchaeology of Marroquíes, which had recently been published in MENGA: Journal of Andalusian Prehistory. I’m also co-author on a second paper in the volume, titled Stable Isotope Analysis of Human Remains from Los Millares Cemetery (Almería, Spain, C. 3200-2200 Cal BC): Regional Comparisons and Dietary Variability, written with friends and colleagues Anna Waterman, Jonathan Thomas, and Rob Tykot.

I’ve known Anna and John since 2010, when I first worked at Bolores, a site excavated by Katina Lillios  and a team from the University of Iowa in Torres Vedras, Portugal. Bolores is a Late Neolithic – Copper Age mortuary rock shelter, and is responsible for first sparking my interest in Iberian Late Prehistory. I returned to Bolores for the final field season in 2012, and Anna, John and I  have talked about publishing something together ever since.

In this high-octane photograph from summer 2012, Anna is wearing a red jumper and looking thoughtful, while I am morosely clutching at my feet for some reason. Photo Credit: Joe Artz.

The publication of this new research is particularly exciting as it represents the first dietary isotopic analysis of the people buried at Los Millares*, arguably the most famous site in Copper Age Iberia due to its size, multiple walls, barbican entrance, thirteen hill forts, and extensive cemetery. There hasn’t been a full bioarchaeological analyses conducted for Los Millares, so the stable isotope analyses published here provides an initial glimpse of what life was like for the inhabitants of this village. The isotopes analyzed include δ13Cco, δ13Capδ15N, and δ18O (carbon and nitrogen from collagen, and carbon and oxygen from apatite).

Figure 1. from Waterman et al. (2017)

Figure 1. Map of Iberian Peninsula showing location of Los Millares, from Waterman et al. 2017.

Despite the location of Los Millares only 20km away from the Mediterranean Sea, our results suggest that people were largely reliant on terrestrial resources, with limited input of marine foods in their diets. This patterning matches that found at other sites from Late Prehistoric Iberia, potentially reflecting a broadly distributed subsistence strategy that focused heavily on mixed agricultural production, with minor incorporation of wild or aquatic resources. The standard deviations for δ13C and  δ15N (at 0.4‰ and 0.6‰ respectively) are larger than those anticipated for homogeneous diets. meaning that plant and protein intake thus likely varied between individuals, with δ13Cap values revealing diversity in carbohydrate resources. The human sample available for analysis was small (n=12),so in the future we hope to analyze wild and domestic faunal remains from Los Millares in order to expand these results and clarify dietary practices in Late Prehistoric Almería.


If you’re interested in reading the full paper it’s up on academia.edu, here:

Waterman, Anna, Jess Beck, Jonathan T. Thomas, and Robert H. Tykot. (2017). Stable isotope analysis of human remains from Los Millares (Almeria, Spain, C. 2500-1800 BC): Regional comparisons and dietary variability. MENGA: Journal of Andalusian Prehistory 7(8):15-27.

*Note that this link refers to it as a city, but it is more appropriately categorized as a large village.

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Bioarchaeological Approaches to Social Organization at Marroquíes (Jaén, Spain)

Confession time. Despite my resolution to spend less of 2018 travelling, I’ve already backslid, with a research trip to Germany (blog post to come) and a trip back to the States having led me to spend about three weeks on the road in January and February.


However, I am now able to stay in one place for six glorious weeks, so it’s back to blogging, working on publications, and appreciating the joys of late winter weather in southern England:

No.

In addition to a surfeit of precipitation, I have also returned home to welcome news – my paper in MENGA: Journal of Andalusian Prehistory, has just been published.


I’m always pleased when a new publication comes out, but this edition of MENGA is a particularly exciting as my analysis of human remains from Marroquíes is contextualized within a larger issue focused on “New Perspectives in the Study of Bioarchaeological Remains from the 3rd Millennium BC in Southern Iberia.”


The papers in this editorial cover four major sites from Copper Age Iberia, including the famously fortified Los Millares, the large-scale settlement of Valencina de la Concepción, home to some of the most intricate ivory artifacts in Spain, the Portuguese ritual enclosure of Perdigões, and the massive village of Marroquíes.

This is the first publication that has come out of my dissertation research (besides my more preliminary chapter in the Osterholtz volume on theoretical approaches to commingled remains from 2015). In the article, I present the bioarchaeological results of eight months of data collection in Jaén, detailing my bioarchaeological and dental analyses and the resultant assessments of minimum number of individuals (MNI), age, sex, and mortuary practices. Overall, my research suggests that there was limited age- or sex-based differentiation in mortuary treatment at Marroquíes, and there was a relatively inclusive approach to funerary practices at all mortuary areas at the site.

Later this week I’ll put up a brief post introducing the Los Millares paper from this same volume of MENGA, as I’m also a co-author on that one. This is a great volume to read if you’re interested in Late Prehistoric Europe, bioarchaeology, or the emergence of large-scale villages, and I’m excited that my work, and the site of Marroquíes, are represented in the issue.

Here’s a link to the paper on Academia.edu:
https://www.academia.edu/35969236/Bioarchaeological_Approaches_to_Social_Organization_at_Jae_n_Spain_

Image Credits: Map of Valencina de la Concepción from Costa Caramé et al., (2010) Trabajos de Prehistoria; Map of the ditches at Perdigões from Valera et al., (2014) SPAL: Revista de Prehistoria y Arqueología de la Universidad de Sevilla; Map of Marroquíes from Zafra et al., (2003) Trabajos de Prehistoria; Reconstruction of Los Millares by Miguel Salvatierra Cuenca, via Wikipedia.

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Bone Broke Year in Review 2017

In 2018 I will approach my goals with the predatory enthusiasm of a lion stalking its prey in Nairobi National Park, rather than the sluggish determination of a snail forced to engage in slow-motion acrobatics due to lack of foresight, which is the vibe that has characterized my approach in 2017.

The reason that my year has passed in a befuddled haze of airports and train rides is because so much of the academic year has been spent on the road. Though I moved to Pittsburgh in August 2016 for my position as the 2016-2017 Visiting Scholar at the University of Pittsburgh, and technically lived in Pennsylvania through May 2017, I only spent 5.5 months in the city, and spent the other 3.5 months travelling. I travelled for fieldwork, conferences, job interviews, bioarchaeological research, and in order to see friends and visit family.

One of my goals for 2018 is thus to limit my travel and stay in one place for at least two months so that I can finally feel a bit settled, and possibly even get some academic work done. That said, I am writing this post from Zanzibar*, on a four-day New Year’s holiday after attending a friend’s wedding in Nairobi, planning to head back to the Cambridge for a week before going to Tübingen and Jena in Germany for six-days on a research trip to meet with collaborators. Even when I seek to avoid it, it seems that travel is determined to find me.

In spite of my hectic schedule, I still found time to get quite a bit done in 2017. My post count for this past year continues to pale in comparison to the 2014 and 2015 peak years of Bone Broke blogging, numbering only 22 posts including this annual recap. Even though post numbers are low, they still provide a good sense of what it is I have been up to academically.**

Academia

The 2017 accomplishment of which I am most proud was co-teaching my first graduate seminar with Liz Arkush, an undertaking that required an unanticipated immersion in Andean archaeology, much cajoling of recalcitrant students who did not want to respond to my thoughtful and stimulating prompts, and, of course, donuts.

In mid-winter, I also found out that I had made the grade for a Marie Skłodowska-Curie European Fellowship at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge. Upon my arrival at the McDonald in October, I realized that I had landed in a wonderfully energetic and welcoming academic community which has 50+ post-docs in archaeology and biological anthropology alone. There are endless and fascinating lecture series that cover everything from contemporary debates in biological anthropology to isotopic analyses of mobility along the Roman-Hun frontier. Training and outreach are both components of my fellowship, so in late October I presented my research at the Cambridge Festival of Ideas with new friends and fellow MSCA post-docs Alexandra Ion and Laerke Recht, and in the first week of November I drank Yorkshire Tea for the first time while attending a workshop on entheseal changes at the University of Sheffield.

Oh, and as part of my new life in Cambridge, I also finally learned how to ride a bike.

Conferences

At least a fraction of my travel in 2017 was related to conference attendance, beginning with the SAA meetings in Vancouver in early April, where I ate some truly spectacular food, visited the breathtaking UBC Museum of Anthropology, and presented my Iberian research in an eclectic and stimulating mortuary archaeology session. After my brief stint in the Canadian west, I headed to the AAPA meetings in New Orleans in mid-April, where I sampled beignets for the first time and also presented a poster on aging methods for subadult teeth. I closed out the year with a trip back to the U.S. in late November in order to attend my first ever AAA meetings, catching up with a number of old friends while marvelling at the scale of the conference.

Osteology Everywhere and Bioarchaeology Vocabulary

 During all of my time on the road I indeed saw osteology everywhere, starting with some heliconia plants in Bangkok, Thailand. I spent a lot of time in New York State over the spring and summer, and in so doing documented iliac crests at both Storm King art center and in the Mohonk Preserve. During my second foray to my Romanian field site, I witnessed some excellent osteology art, in the midst of bouts of consumption of slanina and Jacobs coffee packets. After moving to the UK, I really did see osteology everywhere: on the London Tube, on Downing Street outside of my institute, and in the fiery coals of Thirsty Riverside’s Winter Garden. I also attempted to share my obsessive osteological attitude by writing Bioarchaeology Vocab posts on both Wolff’s Law and the Standard Anatomical Position.Visual puns mean that you will not forget his name

Fieldwork

2017 was an important year for getting my next archaeological project off of the ground. While I went to the field in October 2016 in order to map the site of Ramet, I only spent about 10 days in Transylvania. In July of 2017, I returned with the American component of the MARBAL team (Colin Quinn and Emilie Cobb) to rendezvous with Dr. Horia Ciugudean in Alba Iulia, and analyze a number of human skeletal remains from previously excavated Bronze Age sites in the region. Over the course of the summer we started a new blog, I outlined instructions for analyzing a prehistoric commingled burial, and I recounted a day in the life on the MARBAL project.

Expect more ridiculous-looking field ponytails next summer.

It has, all in all, been a busy year. I’m already looking forward to seeing where my archaeological peregrinations take me in 2018. In the mean time, a fellow guest at these bungalows wandered by and admonished me “I hope you do not do work!?”, so it seems like a sign from the universe telling me to take the rest of the year off (six hours and forty-five minutes in this time zone, at least). Wishing a happy and healthy new year to all readers!

* Zanzibar is beautiful, which is why I’m posting these photos, but because I’m first and foremost an anthropologist I also strongly encourage everyone to read the first section of Jamaica Kinkaid’s A Small Place when thinking about what it means to be a tourist in a colonial landscape.
** Besides eating Pop-Tarts.

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AAA 2017 – Washington D.C.

I moved to the UK at the beginning of October, so it no doubt seems strange that I scheduled a trip abroad less than two months later. However, the quick turnaround was for a worthwhile anthropological cause: in late November I headed back to the US to attend my first “triple As”.

The AAA meetings – the conference run by the American Anthropological Association – occur once a year in the late fall. They are the major US meetings for both sociocultural anthropologists and linguistic anthropologists, with attendance running to 6,000+. As such they’re much larger than the primary American conference for biological anthropology (the AAPA meetings), or the Society for American Archaeology meetings, which are larger but still not quite so overwhelming.


Because these meetings are traditionally attended by cultural and linguistic anthropologists, they have become a far more intimate scholastic setting for networking if you are an archaeologist or biological anthropologist. In 2017, I joined as a member of the Biological Anthropology Section upon the recommendation of friends and colleagues, since there are a number of highly active biological anthropologists who have been trying to make the conference more four-field friendly. One example of this is an excellent session I attended that was co-organized and co-chaired by my close friend Caroline VanSickle (NEPOTISM ALERT #1). The session was titled “Biological Anthropology and the Public”, and each of the presenters was invited to speak because they conduct their own unique form of public outreach. This session was particularly innovative because each of the 10-15 minute presentations were filmed in advance at the Smithsonian NMNH , and the videos were broadcast for the first time at the conference session itself a few days later.Sue Sheridan (@SusanGSheridan) discussed the perils and pitfalls of running popular Facebook group BioAnthropology News. Kate Clancy (@KateClancy) followed up by describing how her Period Podcast allows her to reach a much broader audience than her previous attempts at scientific blogging, while Julie Lesnik (@JulieLesnik) gave the audience a series of patented “Tips and Tricks” for making science lectures resonate with broader public audiences.

After Julie, Becca Peixoto (@Becca Peixoto) talked about what it felt like to livestream her work as an ‘underground astronaut’on the Homo naledi project into classrooms and lecture halls around the world. Natalia Reagan (@natalia13reagan), dressed in my favorite conference outfit to date, recounted her time spent debating and debunking popular cryptozoological myths (among others), from an anthropological perspective, and Briana Pobiner rounded out the session by describing how museums can incorporate and promote scientific outreach.

Agustín Fuentes (@Anthrofuentes) led the subsequent discussion, which touched upon important topics ranging from the undervaluation of outreach in tenure decisions to the unfortunate reality of being a woman on the internet in 2017, including death threats and rape threats. Andre Costopoulos, a mentor of mine when I was an undergraduate at McGill University (NEPOTISM ALERT #2), has written an excellent follow-up piece inspired by the session that delves into the historical backdrop to the shift in anthropological attitudes towards public outreach.

I was in the audience for the entire session, and have recapped it as a Twitter moment. Grudgingly, I have to admit that the talks themselves are even more engaging than my tweets, and they are all available to watch on the BOAS Network YouTube channel. These are worth a watch. This session ranks as one of the most innovative conference presentations I’ve seen in anthropology, up there with the “UpGoer Five” session at the 2017 AAPAs in New Orleans, and of course Alison Atkin’s most excellent conference poster “The Attritional Mortality Myth” (also known as #plagueposter).

The session in which I myself presented, titled “Bioarchaeology and the Biocultural Synthesis: Current Perspectives and Applications,” was organized by Michigan State University PhD student Lisa Bright and Idaho State University visiting assistant professor Amy Michael, and focused on biocultural approaches to bioarchaeology. The session abstract emphasized employing “biocultural models that blend social theory with cultural, environmental, and biological interactions,” and was aimed at “researchers whose work encompasses issues that were relevant in the past just as today (e.g. migration and immigration, gender and sexuality, race and ancestry, privilege, economics, and health).” There were some great talks in that vein, from discussions of how structural violence affected historic populations in the United States, to the impact of race and gender in the both the ancient past and in the present.

I presented a co-authored paper on the ways in which mortuary archaeology and bioarchaeology provide complementary lines of cultural and biological evidence that can be used to more fully understand the emergence of inequality in human societies. We drew upon case studies from Copper Age Iberia, Early Bronze Age Romania, and Bronze Age Ireland to illustrate the ways that our approach can inform the emergence of inequality in different parts of the world in prehistory. That paper, co-authored with the esteemed Colin Quinn, was published in Open Archaeology in 2016 as a paper titled “Essential Tensions: A Framework for Exploring Inequality Through Mortuary Archaeology and Bioarchaeology.” One of our goals over the past two years has been to break the Top 5 most downloaded articles list for that journal, so go ahead and give it a read if you’re feeling generous.

Since I was able to participate in a thought-provoking series of bioarchaeology presentations and witness a stellar session on public outreach in biological anthropology, I’d say my first AAAs were a success. However, I still haven’t recounted the most important interaction of my conference experience: meeting the world’s most compelling graduate school recruiter (spotted at the booth for KSU).


More Washington DC conference shenanigans to unfold in 2018, as I’ll be back in the city in the spring to present a poster and a paper at the Society for American Archaeology meetings. Until then, Happy (almost) New Year!

 

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Osteology Everywhere: Winter Garten Edition

In the movies, southern England during the holiday season is always pictured as a bucolic landscape of quaint villages nestled in rolling hills that are blanketed with snow. The reality is something more like this:

Current view from outside my office, as of 3:19 PM on Sunday, December 17. Pretty grim.

The weather of late has been unpredictable– cold, or, rainy or, wait for it… cold AND rainy. I have begun to appreciate the British penchant for layered sweaters and a constant stream of tea. After four years in Quebec and seven years in Michigan I can handle the cold, but low temperatures combined with rain, rather than snow, simply add insult to injury.

In order to cope with the ever inclement weather, on Saturday night I organized a small gathering at a place called the Winter Garten, run by Thirsty Riverside.

The Winter Garten is a semi-outdoor beer garden that has massive tents with central fires, an outdoor beer stand, and rotating food trucks. Because of its location and clientele, it is also a great place for dog-watching.

His name is Peanut and he is dressed like a Christmas pudding.

I made some bad food decisions on Saturday afternoon (namely, not eating enough food), and so I was forced to grab a burger, which meant spending a fair amount of time shifting from foot to foot in the cold, wishing I’d brought a thicker pair of gloves. Upon returning to the tent, it was necessary to warm up by the fire.

Holding my hands as close to the fire as humanly possible made me notice the shapes of logs themselves. After a few seconds, the elongated and angular exteriors surrounding rounded hollow cavities seemed somewhat familiar. Don’t these look like tibial shafts?


A friendly winter reminder that even capuchin-themed beer cannot prevent me from seeing osteology everywhere!


Image Credits: Photo of tibia from the Science Museum Collection, here.

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