Minding the gaps: A methodological approach to inter-individual variability in skeletal completion


Four and a half years ago, in summer 2011, I took the Kampsville Bioarchaeology and Human Osteology lab course through ASU. The class is an intensive osteological bootcamp, and though I’d previously taken an introductory osteology course at Michigan, the immersive Kampsville approach cemented my love of bioarchaeology and honed my ability to analyze fragmentary remains. In addition to the methodological training, I made some amazing friends who I still see at conferences, and learned new things about my own physical and mental limits. I vividly recall sleeping in the lap and getting up at 430 to make coffee and get a few hours of analysis in before breakfast during the last two weeks of project crunch time; good times.

Early morning view of the mighty Illinois
 At the time I was particularly interested in examining how health and social identity intersected in prehistory, and how that intersection changed over time relative to changes in subsistence practice and social organization. I used the data I collected that summer to develop the framework of my predoctoral paper, returning in October 2011 to analyze another twenty individuals and increase my sample size.

I submitted the predoctoral paper in September 2013, and since then have been busy with another minor program requirement called a “dissertation”, which has entailed a lot of gallivanting around in southern Spain, taking photographs of teeth, and trawling the methodological literature on dental analysis. In the interim the paper has undergone multiple rounds of revisions, and required me to learn more about the Middle Woodland than I thought I would ever need to as a European archaeologist (though, as Bob Chapman has astutely pointed out, there are some pretty compelling parallels between the Middle Woodland and European Prehistory). Its final incarnation is as more of a methodological paper. I was curious as to whether there is any significant relationship between skeletal completion and insult preservation (spoiler: there is), and I also came up with a simple statistical strategy for dealing with the fact that individuals with more bones or teeth preserve higher numbers of insults.

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 9.03.04 AM I’m excited that the paper is finally out. I’ve posted a pdf on my academia.edu page (link below):


If you’re interested in bioarchaeological methodology, or the Middle and Late Woodland, or amazing maps of the American Midwest that only took three and half hours to make because I am bad at GIS, then you may find this worth a read.

This entry was posted in Bioarchaeology, Data Collection, Osteology, Publications and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Minding the gaps: A methodological approach to inter-individual variability in skeletal completion

  1. awesome, congratulations! Looking forward to reading it.


  2. Get out! I was at Kampsville in 2010! I ended up going into biomedical anthropology but I miss bioarch so much it hurts sometimes. Congrats on sticking to the field and thank you for sharing these posts on your blog. 🙂


  3. Pingback: Bone Broke Year in Review 2016 | Bone Broke

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