Last month I received some excellent news. My course proposal, which I assembled somewhat manically during the thick of data collection this past summer, was accepted by the Department of Anthropology. This means that I have the opportunity to teach a summer course at the University of Michigan in July and August 2014 (as long as I can recruit the requisite number of students), and it also means that after six semesters of teaching, I’ll finally be able to teach bioarchaeology.
I’ve acted as a Teaching Assistant for a number of different anthropology courses before, including introduction to primatology, human behavioral ecology, introduction to biological anthropology, nutritional anthropology, and human evolution. While some of the more paleoanthropology flavored classes have allowed me to create labs that incorporate teaching osteology, I’ve generally led a pedagogical life sadly devoid of bones. No more!
I’ve titled the course “The Science of Skeletons: Introduction to Bioarchaeology“. A course description can be found below, and I’m attaching pdfs of the course flyer and syllabus at the end of this post. If you’ve ever taught bioarchaeology courses, or remember particularly excellent classes from when you took the subject yourself, I’m all External Auditory Meatuses. Any suggestions about readings, labs, particularly insightful videos or clips are all welcome. I just hope that the students are as excited to take this course as I am to teach it!
Course Description: Bioarchaeology is the study of human skeletal material from archaeological sites, and this course will outline the ways that bioarchaeologists use data collected from human bones to estimate age and sex, diagnose ancient diseases, and examine activity levels and movement across prehistoric landscapes. Students will have an opportunity to conduct hands-on labs with human skeletal remains, learning how bioarchaeologists use scientific methods to understand past lives. Each week will begin with a hands-on lab or fieldtrip, which will be followed by an in-depth discussion of the implications of such methods for archaeological understandings of the human past. We will explore how to estimate the age and sex of individuals, to identify prehistoric diseases, to estimate stature, and to make predictions about an individual’s ancestry. The course will also outline how bioarchaeology can reveal important information about key prehistoric social transformations– specifically focusing on the costs and benefits of the transition to agriculture – and will also touch upon the ways that bioarchaeology and its findings are portrayed in different contemporary contexts such as museum exhibits and the popular media.
Note: I’ve updated the syllabus since I first drafted it, so the syllabus pdf below is updated.