Bioarchaeology of the Near East, 11:7-28 (2017)

History of and recent trends in bioarcheological research in the Nile valley and the Levant

Jerome C. Rose

Anthropology Department, University of Arkansas,
Old Main 330, Fayetteville, Arkansas 72701 USA

Abstract: This history of bioarcheology in the Middle East is divided into six time periods. The earliest time frame of 1870 to 1929 witnessed the development of traditional skeletal studies with a focus on skulls and race, but also saw developments in statistics, age/sex determination, and the birth of paleopathology as an academic discipline. 1930 to 1962 saw slow improvements in the methods introduced earlier, but from 1963 to 1983 there was an explosion of books and articles introducing new analytical methods, the birth of bioarcheology, and a focus on dietary reconstruction and the origins of agriculture. There was a great increase in the sophistication of research methods as well as numerous technical innovations, but there was little to no change in theory beyond problems associated with ancient agriculture and growing settlement complexity. Despite growth in research and publications, the period from 1984 to 2006 was a period of technical maturation without innovation of theory, while archeology was incorporating many advances in social theory. Beginning in 2007, and continuing until today, bioarcheology has increasingly adopted much of the burgeoning archeological and social theory which produced another publication extravaganza on topics such as osteobiography, health and care of the sick, social identity, violence, and research employing ancient DNA. Speculation on the future of bioarcheology presented here follows these trends while focusing on the integration of social theory into the study of skeletons, and the great strides that will be made in understanding the co-evolution of humans, cultures, and pathogens. Further, the refocus on the individual is achieving remarkable results and the future will see the individuals reborn into social groups.

Key words: Middle East; bioarcheology theory; osteology; teeth; skeletons

Received 24 April 2017; accepted 20 September 2017; published online 2 January 2018.

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