Bioarchaeology: Scientific Studies of Archaeological Human Skeletal Remains - Journal of Research on Archaeometry
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year 4, Issue 2 (2018)                   JRA 2018, 4(2): 81-92 | Back to browse issues page

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Afshar Z. Bioarchaeology: Scientific Studies of Archaeological Human Skeletal Remains. JRA 2018; 4 (2) :81-92
Durham University ,
Abstract:   (4508 Views)
Bioarchaeology is an interdisciplinary academic specialty, which through the scientific analysis and interpretation of archaeological human skeletal remains, bridges the link between the biological sciences, medicine, anthropology and social sciences. The cornerstone of bioarchaeology is the interaction between culture and human biology. Since the study of people and ancient societies is one of the main goals of archaeology, therefore, in the absence of studies of human remains, archaeology will be a very poor discipline. Scientific and systematic studies of human skeletal remains have effective contribution to our understanding of the complex concepts of social identities of people and past societies. Nevertheless, bioarchaeological studies of human skeletal remains can provide a unique perspective which cannot be offered by archaeological materials alone, and can be a complementary source of information that can contribute to the interpretation of an archaeological site. Human skeletal remains offer valuable data for evaluating biological relationships/distance between human groups, along with suggesting aspects of their lifestyle, mortality rates, diet and nutrition, and health and disease. This provides an extraordinarily detailed picture of the physiological and biological responses of past populations to the stresses posed by their environments. The early studies of human skeletal remains in the world were based on ‘racial’ types and ‘classification’ of individuals into different races and groups, however, later and over the past 40 years, these dangerous ‘racial tendencies’ were abandoned – there has been a huge revolution in biological studies of human remains, and these studies have progressed towards coherent and scientific studies and at the demographic level (for example: genetic kinship, diet, disease, life style of ancient people, biological and cultural development). During this period and so far, efforts have been made to collect human skeletal remains in different part of the world. Official associations and professional organizations have been established for bioarchaeologists and experts in the field. At the same time, there are some very large projects carried out on general samples of human remains in order to answer specific questions. Unfortunately, the archaeological human skeletal remains in Iran have been neglected and Iranian archaeology is less concerned with the study of human skeletons than with the analyses of the artefacts and cultural materials recovered from the Iranian archaeological sites. Our knowledge in this regard is very limited and incomplete and we have no proper understanding of the ancient people of Iran. This has probably been the result of 1) lack of clear knowledge and awareness about bioarchaeology of human skeletal remains and the importance of ancient human skeletons as a key source of information in the studies of past societies, 2) absence of bioarchaeological/human osteological/palaeopathological department in none of the departments/universities or scientific institutions in Iran, 3) and of course lack of or absence of academic specialists in the field of human remains/bioarchaeology in Iran. This paper considers and introduces the discipline of bioarchaeology and its contribution to the study of ancient human skeletal remains from the archaeological sites. In addition, it provides an overview of the history and development of bioarchaeology as a discipline from the 18th century onwards, the history of bioarchaeological research in Iran, and the ethical issues surrounding human skeletal remains.
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Technical Note: Review | Subject: Archaeometry
Received: 2018/08/15 | Accepted: 2018/09/26 | Published: 2018/12/30 | ePublished: 2018/12/30

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