The Ultimate Bioarchaelogy Quiz

Staff

Why is it difficult to define the term bioarchaeology with perfect accuracy?

It's all semantics. The term covers a whole subfield of studies that leverages many different academic disciplines, so a perfect description is elusive.

Who coined the term bioarchaeology?

He's sort of the Clark Kent of bioarchaeology -- by inventing this term, Clark opened researchers' minds to a more holistic view of archaeology.

Bioarchaeologists often use cranial and pelvic bones to determine a person's what?

Let's talk about it. Male and female anatomy is different at a skeletal level. Scientists take these differences into account when determining a person's sex.

Why are bones vital to archaeological work?

Haunted houses have nothing on ancient graveyards, which are full of old skeletons that survive long after flesh has decayed. Those bones hold the answers to many bioarchaeological questions.

A lot of bioarchaeology work is done in cold, dry regions of the world. How come?

Perhaps a parka is in order? Cold, dry places can keep human remains remarkably preserved for centuries and provide a great environment for scientific study.

Bones provide information about how much physical labor a person performed. What are common traits of a laborer's bones?

Work those abs! People who performed a lot of hard, physical work show skeletal signs of stronger, bigger bones.

What does DNA evidence help bioarchaeologists reconstruct?

It's not a family tree -- it's a family forest! Bioarchaeologists can use DNA to trace the geographical wanderings of entire tribes and societies.

Teeth that are full of cavities may point to evidence of what kind of diet?

Do you have any vegetarian options? Caries, or cavities, are often caused by oral bacteria that help humans break down carbohydrates.

Mass spectrometers can vaporize samples of human remains. Why in the world would bioarchaeologists want to dissolve their finds?

Bones are chemical wonderlands. Scientists try to determine their chemistry by any means possible, helping to reconstruct a person's diet and much more.

NAGPRA is a funny-sounding acronym, but what does it stand for?

We all want just a little respect. Native Americans, in particular, emphasize respect for their ancestors' remains. That's what legislation like the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act is designed to do.

In what year did the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization set out to protect items of cultural heritage?

Here's some legalese for you -- in 1970, UNESCO introduced a convention called a Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.

Why do some scientists oppose NAGPRA?

Religion and government make fine friends, don't they? NAGPRA specifies religious terms in its legislation, which some scientists think bridges the constitutionally-required separation of church and state.

Bioarchaeologists belong to professional associations. Which of these is one of them?

Call them hard-core clubbers. Bioarchaeologists don't have their own specific association, but in keeping with their multidisciplinary perspectives, they belong to a lot of related ones, including those created for anthropologists.

Who funds the work that bioarchaeologists carry out?

Recessions and research don't mix, but devoted scientists can still find money through organizations that support their work.

Bioarchaeologists have reputations, but the good kind. As scientists, what are they famous for?

Not even bioarchaeologists can do this much multitasking. Due, in part, to the fact that they have so many disciplines to review, these scientists are known to share a lot of information with each other in hopes of answering their questions.

What's one of the most important aspects of bioarchaeology?

It's all about your perspective, and bioarchaeologists provide plenty of it, offering a holistic, contextual view of history instead of single theories.

Bioarchaeologists study a huge range of subjects. Which fields must these Renaissance men and women know a lot about?

You name it, they study it. Bioarchaeology requires scientists to master a broad range of facts and theories regarding ancient societies.

In some countries, scientists might refer to bioarchaeology by a different name. Can you guess what it is?

A name is just a name -- in Europe, for example, a researcher might call this area of study biological anthropology.

Why do bioarchaeologists need a background in mortuary studies?

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Every society has burial rituals, and mortuary studies help researchers understand these parts of a culture.

How is the work that bioarchaeologists perform relevant to modern societies -- that is, to the rest of us?

Wherever you go, there you are. Maybe it's just human nature, but curiosity about our ancestors provides modern people with clues about our past -- and the future of our species, too.

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About This Quiz

This fascinating subfield of anthropology is filled with bones, and the people who practice it are sort of like real-life Indiana Joneses. Curious yet?

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