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?
It's all semantics. The term covers a whole subfield of studies that leverages many different academic disciplines, so a perfect description is elusive.
He's sort of the Clark Kent of bioarchaeology -- by inventing this term, Clark opened researchers' minds to a more holistic view of archaeology.
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.
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.
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.
Work those abs! People who performed a lot of hard, physical work show skeletal signs of stronger, bigger bones.
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.
Do you have any vegetarian options? Caries, or cavities, are often caused by oral bacteria that help humans break down carbohydrates.
Bones are chemical wonderlands. Scientists try to determine their chemistry by any means possible, helping to reconstruct a person's diet and much more.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Recessions and research don't mix, but devoted scientists can still find money through organizations that support their work.
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.
It's all about your perspective, and bioarchaeologists provide plenty of it, offering a holistic, contextual view of history instead of single theories.
You name it, they study it. Bioarchaeology requires scientists to master a broad range of facts and theories regarding ancient societies.
A name is just a name -- in Europe, for example, a researcher might call this area of study biological anthropology.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Every society has burial rituals, and mortuary studies help researchers understand these parts of a culture.
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.