Bioarchaeology of Care

The bioarchaeology of care is an archaeological approach that endeavors to use physical evidence of care-giving to explore and interpret the details of past behavior, some of which may be unreachable by other means (Tilley 2011). The term was popularized in the research of Lorna Tilley and Marc Oxenham, in which they use a case study to construct an analytical framework to approach the evidence, cognizant of its social context and implications. For the most part, this care-giving is associated with individuals that are disabled or otherwise impaired; this entails limitations to activity and participation in some – or all – of their culture and lifestyle. 

One particular case, that of Man Bac Burial 9, demonstrates this phenomenon thoroughly. The remains of M9 were discovered in a Neolithic cemetery site in northern Vietnam, dating back to roughly 4,000 years ago (Gorman 2012). The physical evidence reveals that M9 was paralyzed from the waist down in adolescence; his restricted upper body movement and immobilized lower body would have required extensive care in all aspects of life, and yet, M9 survived for approximately 10 more years. His survival to that point implies certain things about his community and about prehistoric society as a whole. Firstly, it implies altruism. The care-giving M9 received despite his reduced contributions to the Neolithic subsistence economy indicate that not only was there a surplus of labor and resources that would allow for his care, but also that there was compassion and a willingness in the community to do so. Additionally, there must have been a diverse range of food that would accommodate M9’s unique dietary needs emerging from immobility-associated gastrointestinal issues. M9 is one of the first prehistoric examples of long-term care-giving and survival with total disability (Tilley 2011).

Figure 1: Location of excavation site Man Bac 9. (Photograph provided by James Gorman of The New York Times, 2012).

Figure 2: Modern day Man Bac, cemetery excavation site visible on the middle right. (Photograph provided by Lorna Tilley, 2011).

Alongside with the growth of the bioarchaeology of care is the corresponding debate over its viability. The archaeological evidence under discussion indicates that ancient Neolithic communities cared for their disabled members. The two responses to this are (1) the compassion argument or (2) the null hypothesis. The former believes that the care-giving was motivated by altruism and a commitment to their community members. The latter disagrees, arguing that there is not enough concrete evidence to draw conclusions about community care-giving, rather, the impaired individual must have managed on their own (Thorpe 2016, 93). The two main complications in interpreting bioarchaeology originate in our modern biases. Firstly, it may be irresponsible to retroactively attribute a motive, in this case compassion, to a culture we are completely removed from (Tilley 2011). Second, our medical understanding of particular disabilities is situated within the modern, mostly Western world, which may be completely incomparable to that of the Vietnamese Neolithic (Tilley 2011).

While archaeologists recognize these limitations, they must also acknowledge how the societal implications of care-giving enhance and add to general cultural analysis. The rejection of compassion is unproductive; instead, a more fruitful conversation could be the change of care-giving throughout the archaeological record (Thorpe 2016, 105). Overall, bioarchaeology of care can provide insights on the culture and community of an individual, while also contributing to our understanding of prehistoric society.


Further Readings:

  1. Oxenham, Marc F., Hirofumi Matsumura, and Nguyen Kim Dung, eds. Man Bac: The Excavation of a Neolithic Site in Northern Vietnam. Vol. 33. ANU Press, 2010.
  2. Halcrow, Siân E. “New Bioarchaeological Approaches to Care in the Past.” Antiquity 91, no. 358 (2017): 1101–3. doi:10.15184/aqy.2017.99.



Gorman, James. “Ancient Bones That Tell a Story of Compassion.” The New York Times, December 2012.

Thorpe, Nick. “The Palaeolithic Compassion Debate – Alternative Projections of Modern-Day Disability into the Distant Past,” in Care in the Past: Archaeological and Interdisciplinary Perspectives, edited by Lindsay Powell, et al., Oxbow Books, Limited, 2016. ProQuest Ebook Central,

Tilley, Lorna and Marc F. Oxenham. “Survival against the odds: Modeling the social implications of care provision to seriously disabled individuals.” International Journal of Paleopathology, Volume 1, Issue 1, 2011, pp. 35-42,

The Archaeology of Horses: The Invaluable Tools in Human Evolution

The Archaeology of Horses: The Invaluable Tools in Human Evolution

By: Sydney Cort

           The relationship between humans and horses is particularly unique as they served as much more than just companions for people from the paleolithic period to the modern age. Horses transformed the lives of humans as they served as a means of transportation, weapons of war, a sustainable food source, vehicles which facilitated trade and carried goods, and much more. An abundance of horse bones were found in Eurasia that date to roughly 2.5 million years old to 10,000 B.C years old  (AIA, 2015). These bones were degraded in a way that suggests that they were butchered and this reflects that during early human times, horses were an important food source  (AIA, 2015). Additionally, the value of horses during this period is illustrated as images of them in the form of cave art appear more frequently than any other animal (AIA, 2015). Evidently, the earliest humans viewed these animals as a core part of their lives. 

           As people began to domesticate the horse, they were used in ritualistic and spiritual funerals as a sign of status. In the excavation of the sixth-century B.C. tomb of a Chinese ruler, Duke Jing of Qi, the remains of upwards of 200 horses were discovered buried with him. Archaeologists believe that this is representative of Duke Jing of Qi’s immense fortune and social status in his society  (AIA, 2015)

           Horses were symbolic of power and societal ranking as they were exceedingly useful in battle. Soldiers on horseback were given an enormous advantage in battle as they were faster, more protected, and being atop a horse gave them a better vantage point and an advantageous position to fight their enemies that were on foot. Prior to this use of horses, chariotry was used primarily for travel and battle in eastern Europe, but chariots hindered soldiers from fighting in certain areas whereas riding horseback in battle was suitable to almost any terrain. Evidence of this use of horses was found in a tablet dating to 1400 B.C that accounts the training cycle and care instructions for horses used in battle and for riding in modern day Syria and southeastern Turkey (AIA 2015)

           Archaeologists are able to track the domestication of horses through analyzing their bones and specifically are focused on the “bit wear” on the bars of the horse’s mouth (in front of the second premolar) where a bit rests when a horse is being ridden (Taylor, 2020). In the image below, bit wear from this ancient horse being ridden is shown. This method of tracking whether a horse was ridden is not entirely accurate as archaeologists have misrecognized wear on the skull and teeth of horses as bit wear in the past. Despite this fact, bit wear is generally a good indicator of whether a horse’s remains come from a domesticated animal (Taylor, 2020). The process of dating remains and determining the role the organism once played in society is complex and archaeologists have become increasingly more accurate with their ability to determine this information from bones. 











Archaeological Institute of America, 2015:  

William Taylor, 2020: 


To Investigate further… 

The Discovery of the Rosetta Stone: The Key To Deciphering Ancient Egyptian Symbols

Napoleon Bonaparte is a man who is known for being many things: a political leader in the French Revolution, a prominent military figure, but also, less knowingly, indirectly discovered the first Egyptian Hieroglyphs. In 1799, during his Egypt campaign, a group of Napoleon’s army engineers found a slab of stone inscribed with the same message three times, repeated in different languages (Figure 1). The stone’s inscription consisted of Demotic, similar to hieroglyphs but more casual; hieroglyphs, which were mainly used by priests and in formal settings; and ancient greek. Due to the stone containing ancient greek, something which scientists and archaeologists could already understand, the Rosetta Stone became a crucial component in deciphering ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs (The British Museum 2017).

Figure 1: A reconstructed image of what the entire Rosetta Stone is believed to have looked like. Retrieved from

In addition to its clues regarding human literacy, the Rosetta stone aided archaeologists in the significance of symbols and what they have been used for throughout human history. In September of 1822, Jean-François Champollion expressed his achievements in translating the Rosetta Stone, announcing the different hieroglyphs used to identify non-Egyptian rulers. This discovery, along with the fact that alphabetic symbols were used for both Egyptian and foreign names, was vital in the process of being able to read the stone entirely (Scalf n.d.). 


Due to the work of Jean-François Champollion, the stone was eventually deciphered and deemed a decree made by a royal council of priests. The decree is part of a succession of sentiments confirming the royal cult of the 13-year-old Ptolemy V in 196 BC, the first anniversary of his coronation (Scalf n.d.). According to the stone’s inscription, it was meant to be placed in every temple of significance across Egypt (Figure 2). With the knowledge of these sentiments, the stone can be sorted into two different archaeological categories of symbols: establishment of place and regulation of human relations with higher powers (The British Museum 2017). As the stone was meant to be installed inside temples, it provides evidence of the symbolic value the stone holds. In addition to this, rather than solely marking a town or community center, the stone specifically marks places of religious importance, showing its connection to a higher ruling power, specifically royal cults (Renfrew and Bahn 2018, 260). 

Figure 2: An alphabetic translation drafted by Jean-François Champollion. Retrieved from

In a society, written symbols are used by individuals to regulate and communicate with people, describe surroundings, organize the whole of society, and pass on accumulated knowledge (Renfrew and Bahn 2018, 273). The significance of the Rosetta Stone revolves around language and, therefore, cognitive ability. Symbols of depiction throughout history provide us with one of our most clear understandings of an individual’s or society’s cognition during pre-literate periods (Renfrew and Bahn 2018, 272). In biology, a human’s ability to use literary symbols is what cognitively separates us from other species, and this discovery significantly bettered our knowledge regarding the origins of more complex forms of language and literary symbols.




“Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about the Rosetta Stone.” The British Museum. Accessed October 1, 2022.

Renfrew, Colin, and Paul G. Bahn. Archaeology Essentials: Theories, Methods, Practice. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd, 2018: 252-275. 

Scalf, Foy. “The Rosetta Stone: Unlocking the Ancient Egyptian Language.” ARCE. Accessed October 1, 2022.

Community Efforts to Preserve the Presidio Pet Cemetery

In a small, unassuming plot of land in San Francisco’s Presidio, the Presidio Pet Cemetery is home to pets owned by military families since WWII (Gradwohl 2000, 22). The cemetery’s unkempt nature contrasts the pristine and orderly appearance of the nearby military veteran cemetery where the owners of these pets lie. Animals like dogs, cats, fish, rabbits, rats, hamsters, birds, and an iguana reside in the cemetery located under a highway overpass, portraying a conflicting message of what this obscure cemetery provides for the archaeological record (Gradwohl 2000, 22). As a San Francisco resident, the Presidio Pet Cemetery has always been an inconspicuous area made unappealing due to its inconvenient location under a highway overpass and its untidy appearance (Figure 1). However, beyond the aesthetics, the history of the cemetery is one of community perseverance and the recognition of animals and their effect on human history.

Figure 1. The Presidio Pet Cemetery in San Francisco, California. Photograph by Jasmine Garnett.

The Presidio Pet Cemetery demonstrates animals’ sociocultural significance in human history and provides a glimpse into the world of multispecies and post-humanist archaeology. Multispecies archaeology is the study of non-human species’ intricate lives and their impacts on human lives, politics, and culture; post-humanist archaeology is of a similar belief where non-human species are analyzed to study the past. By examining the cemetery through a multispecies and post-humanist view, the decorations and emotional epitaphs on the gravestones suggest these animals were loved and provided military families comfort in a tumultuous life. The most lavish graves, belonging to basset hounds Mr. Twister and Raspberry are a prime example as they are complete with large granite gravestones decorated with plants, artificial flowers, small basset hound figurines, mylar balloons, and heartwarming epitaphs (Gradwohl 2000, 24) (Figure 2). 

Figure 2. The ornate graves of basset hounds, Mr. Twister and Raspberry, in the Presidio Pet Cemetery. (Flickr 2008).

While the cemetery is intertwined with Presidio’s military history, it is considered a non-contributing feature in the Presidio of San Francisco Historic Landmark District (Kelly 2015). According to the Cultural Resource Management (CRM), a non-contributing site “does not add to the historic architectural qualities, historical or traditional cultural associations, or archaeological values for which a property is significant” (National Park Service 2002). While the pet cemetery lacks federal protection, the local community has overseen its preservation since its establishment in 1952. Groups like Boy Scouts of America, Swords Into Plowshares, and volunteers of the Presidio Trust have conserved the cemetery over the past 70 years even without the CRM’s protection (Kelly 2015). In 2011, the reconstruction of Doyle Drive (the highway overpass above the cemetery) threatened the cemetery’s destruction, but the construction management team labeled it as an environmentally sensitive area, and the community advocated for its protection as an emotionally sensitive area (Kelly 2015). Despite the lack of federal protection, public and community efforts work to immortalize the pet cemetery, exemplifying how present-day humans can decide what is historically significant – whether or not they are human. 


Garnett, Jasmine. “Dedicated Neighbors Keep a Pet Cemetery and Presidio History, Alive.” KQED. Last modified February 29, 2020. Accessed October 25, 2022.

Gradwohl, David Mayer. “Parakeet to Paradise.” Archaeology 53, no. 3 (2000): 22–24.

Kelly, Bryan. “The Nine Lives of San Francisco’s Presidio Pet Cemetery.” Inversr. Last modified October 21, 2015. Accessed October 25, 2022.

National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior. “NPS-28: Cultural Resource Management Guideline.” National Park Service. Last modified August 2002. Accessed October 25, 2022.

SmugMug+Flickr. “Mr. Twister and Raspberry.” Flickr. Last modified August 21, 2008. Accessed October 25, 2022.

Further Reading:

“Presidio pet cemetery protected”

“Dedicated Neighbors Keep a Pet Cemetery, and Presidio History, Alive”


Off With Their…Limbs! : Exploring Amputations Of Days Gone By

Amputations date back to ancient times and were as life-changing as they
are today. Performing something as complicated as amputation a thousand years ago meant that humans had to have a decent understanding of the body. The evolution of medicine suggests that agricultural societies were settled at least ten thousand years ago and stimulated major innovations surrounding medical practices. The invention and development of advanced surgical procedures were one of them. Before 2022, the oldest discovery of such an operation was found in the skeletal remains of a European Neolithic farmer. This discovery was made in Buthiers-Boulancourt of France (Maloney et al. 2022). The archeologists found that the farmer’s left forearm was surgically removed and had partially healed before death. The estimated time that this might have taken place was seven thousand years ago. The study revealed that the remains showed a medical procedure that is considered to be complicated even today, known as amputation. Amputation is the surgical removal of a body part like an arm or leg. So, the case that took place 7,000 years ago would have required a comprehensive knowledge of human anatomy and appropriate technical skills that would successfully remove a part of the body without causing more damage. Three cases of perimortem limb amputations that consisted of the severing of both hands and feet of three adult males were also reported in the archaeological literature some years back (Fernandes et al. 2017). The skeletons were from the medieval Portuguese necropolis. After studying the lesions, patterns, and location, it was concluded that the amputations were likely a result of judicial punishment during the medieval times in Estremoz city. Another case of a male with trans metatarsal amputation of both forefeet was found in England. However, this case does not infer a deliberate surgical amputation. A recent study shows amputation performed on a child that is believed to have taken place almost 31,000 years ago. The skeletal remains were found in Borneo, Papua New Guinea. This individual had their left lower leg and left foot amputated. The individual underwent amputation at a very young age and is believed to have survived the surgery and lived for around another nine years. Navigating veins, arteries, and tissues to make sure the wound was clean and had no other complications meant the people had knowledge, experience, and materials for performing the procedure (Blake 2022). This discovery suggests that amputations were performed far earlier than originally believed, and further archaeological surveys may lead to many other similar discoveries in the future. Overall, these findings help us better understand the archaeology of seemingly undocumented times.

Figure 1: Archaeological discovery in Borneo showing left and right legs, with an absent lower part of the left leg along with the left foot. (NPR 2022)

Figure 2: Tim Maloney (a professor) taking a closer look at the bones during excavation at the Liang Tebo cave located in Borneo. (NPR 2022)










For more information surrounding amputations and anthropology, please visit:

  • (A case of bilateral forefoot amputation from the Romano-British cemetery of Lankhills, Winchester, UK)
  • (The oldest amputation on a Neolithic human skeleton in France)




  1. Blake, Elissa. 2022. “Stone Age Surgery: Earliest Evidence Of Amputation Found”. The University Of Sydney.
  2. Fernandes, Teresa, Marco Liberato, Carina Marques, and Eugénia Cunha. 2017. “Three Cases Of Feet And Hand Amputation From Medieval Estremoz, Portugal”. International Journal Of Paleopathology 18: 63-68. doi:10.1016/j.ijpp.2017.05.007.
  3. Maloney, Tim Ryan, India Ella Dilkes-Hall, Melandri Vlok, Adhi Agus Oktaviana, Pindi Setiawan, Andika Arief Drajat Priyatno, and Marlon Ririmasse et al. 2022. “Surgical Amputation Of A Limb 31,000 Years Ago In Borneo”. Nature, no. 609: 547-551. doi:10.1038/s41586-022-05160-8.
  4. NPR. 2022. “Amputation in a 31,000-Year-Old Skeleton May Be a Sign of Prehistoric Medical Advances.” NPR, September 7, 2022, sec. Science.

The Dunbar Martyrs and the Ethics of Bioarcheology

In 2013, beneath the Durham Cathedral, a mass grave was found. Archaeologists watched carefully as construction on a café occurred beside the cathedral, ensuring the old church would remain unharmed. Instead, a more interesting archaeological event occurred. Under corner of the cathedral lay approximately 17 people of a mystery origin. (Durham University, 2018) Immediately, bioarcheologists collected and analyzed the remains. The goal of the bioarcheologists was to discover the context of death and burial. Due to location and the assumed time period, it was suspected that this grave was the result of the bubonic plague. This assumption had some merit, especially considering the pattern of the bones.

Figure 1: The placement of bodies in the grave. Retrieved from

The bodies appeared to be placed haphazardly, even thrown, into the grave. More analysis of the bones revealed linear scratches on the surface, consistent with the knowing of rodents. This evidence suggested an improper burial. (Gerrard, C. J. et al. (2018))

Further evidence revealed that all the remains were young men, most likely soldiers. Archaeologists at Durham University revealed that the remains were that of Scottish prisoners, known as the Durham Martyrs, of war, detained on the orders of Oliver Cromwell, an English soldier and statesman at the time of the English Civil Wars. It is estimated that 1,700 prisoners of war were buried in Durham, this find represents only a small portion of these casualties. (Mark Brown, 2015)

This discovery brought with it an abundance of ethical issues. The only bodies taken for examination were those disrupted by construction, but the excavation of the disrupted bodies caused questions of proper burial and repatriation. In 2015, the university of Durham announced they would be reburying the remains, but not in Scotland—the remains were to stay in Durham. This caused outrage, and campaigners rose up, urging the university to bury the bones in their native Scotland. Despite the controversy, the remains were buried in Durham. (Jody Harrison, 2016) Though the reburial provides an unethical example of reburial, and demonstrates the complications of ownership in archaeology, the archaeologists studying the Durham martyrs brought awareness to the English Civil War, and the plight of the soldiers. (Figure 2)

           Figure 2: The team of archaeologists at Durham University; Retrieved from

Following the reburial in 2018, the University of Durham published an online course detailing the lives and deaths of the soldiers, and the role of archaeology in bringing their stories back to life.



Anon. “An archaeological case study: The Scottish soldiers.” FutureLearn. Durham University.

Brown, M. 2015. September 2. “Skeletons found near Durham Cathedral were Oliver Cromwell’s prisoners.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, September 2.

Gerrard, C.M., R. Annis, A. Caffell, C.P. Graves, A. Millard, and J. Beaumont. 2018. Lost lives, new voices: Unlocking the stories of the Scottish soldiers at the Battle of Dunbar, 1650. Oxford, Englands: Oxbow Books.

Millard, A. 2022. April 25. “Durham University Scottish Soldiers Project.” Scottish Prisoners of War Society | Promoting knowledge of the Scottish prisoners from the Battles of Dunbar (1650) and Worcester (1651). Scottish Prisoners of War Society, April 25.

University, D. 2021. June 4. “A long way from home:” Scottish Soldiers – Durham University. June 4.

Further Reading

The Evolution of Hand Preference Shown by Stone Flakes and Anterior Teeth

During the evolution of the human species, right-handedness has been a predominant trait among individuals. Evidence from stone tools and teeth showed that right-handedness was a dominant trait in hominids. “The human-animal appears to be the only species exhibiting a genetically based preference for the use of one forelimb over another” (Toth 1985:607). In almost all other species, the split between a preferred limb was nearly fifty percent.

Stone tools can show archaeologists the history of a favored limb. Stone flakes were examined, and showed a heavy bias towards “right-oriented flakes” (Toth 1985:610). Archaeologists have inspected many stone flakes and found that when the stone flakes are “struck from a core, the flakes will exhibit areas of the cortex. When such flakes are oriented with their striking platforms upward and the dorsal surface towards the viewer, those with cortex on the right side suggest that the blow came from the right side” (Toth 1985:610). Archaeologist Nicholas Toth studied stone tools in Kenya, and Ambrona, Spain. His results yielded strong evidence of a right-handed preference. In Kenya, the ratio was 57:43 in favor of right-handedness. In Ambrona, the ratio was 61:39 in favor of right-handedness (Toth 1985:611). Since right-handedness is associated with the left hemisphere of the brain, there is an interesting debate on when the human brain developed in different human species and how right-handedness can show that.

Figure 1. Characteristics of flaking stone. Hammerstone hits the cobblestone and Point X and creates a flake scar.

Tools were not the only thing that pointed to a hand preference. Different striations of anterior teeth were studied by scientists. They wanted to see if the anterior teeth were affected by different eating tools. “19 specimens from Atupuerca/Ibeas, constitute the sample of anterior teeth of this Anteneandteral site showing buccal striations” (Bermudez de Castro and Jalvo 1988:404). The striations on these teeth were examined by the naked eye first and then inspected under the microscope. They found “similar orientation in all hominid teeth recovered from… different sites” (Bermudez de Castro and Jalvo 1988:409). Scientists then mirrored the neanderthals by making a mouth guard that fits the mouth. Porcelain teeth were then melted onto the mouth guard to mimic the striations. Then they cut off bite-sized pieces of meat with flint flakes. They found a series of striations that matched with their fossil anterior teeth. When looking at “the location of the striations, orientation; and microscopic features of the striations…the results indicate that they were produced with sharp flint by hominids who normally preferred to use their right hand” (Bermudez de Castro and Jalvo 1988:411).

Figure 2. Striation patterns of right and left-handed users. “A and C indicate a right-handed operator; B and D indicate a left-handed operator” (Bermudez de Castro and Jalvo 1988:410).

Right-handedness can be seen as a predominant trait throughout the history of hominids. Stone tools and teeth are examples of how hominids evolved. Their left hemispheres developed over time for the ability of hand preference to become relevant.



Toth, Nicholas. “Archaeological Evidence for Preferential Right-Handedness in the Lower and Middle Pleistocene, and Its Possible Implications.” Journal of Human Evolution 14, no. 6 (1985): 607–14.

Bermúdez de Castro, JoséMaría, Timothy G. Bromage, and Yolanda Fernández Jalvo. “Buccal Striations on Fossil Human Anterior Teeth: Evidence of Handedness in the Middle and Early Upper Pleistocene.” Journal of Human Evolution 17, no. 4 (1988): 403–12.

Uomini, Natalie T. “The Prehistory of Handedness: Archaeological Data and Comparative Ethology.” Journal of Human Evolution 57, no. 4 (2009): 411–19.


Corballis, Michael C. “From Mouth to Hand: Gesture, Speech, and the Evolution of Right-Handedness.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 26, no. 02 (2003).

Westergaard, Gregory C., and Stephen J. Suomi. “Hand Preference for Stone Artefact Production and Tool-Use by Monkeys: Possible Implications for the Evolution of Right-Handedness in Hominids.” Journal of Human Evolution 30, no. 4 (1996): 291–98.

Forensic Anthropology and Bioarchaeology Reveals a Case of Destruction and Injustice

Netflix’s most recent release, Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, received criticism for its lack of awareness for various social groups and for the affected families who had to relive a horrifying and traumatic experience. This post is not to reiterate Dahmer’s story in a way that wrongfully puts him in the spotlight; instead, the forensic anthropology and the bioarchaeology involved in the investigation will be emphasized to explore an issue that has been rooted in injustice. 

Figure 1. The timeline of Dahmer’s insidious murders which included eight Black males, one Asian male, and one White male. (Jentzen 2017) 

Because Dahmer’s case was largely characterized by extreme means of actions, the need for forensic anthropologists was constituted. Many things were discovered and investigated, and the primary takeaways consisted of detailing Dahmer’s motives and the commonalities between the victims in the case (Jentzen 2017). The work of forensic anthropologists allowed a larger issue, in the spectrum of law enforcement and race, to arise. Through the inhumane evidence that Dahmer left behind, the bioarchaeology of his victims was sought. It was revealed that a majority of his victims were neglected and vulnerable low-income minorities that came as a result of institutional racism in an impoverished Milwaukee location (Barnard 2000).

Figure 2. Jeffery Dahmer’s victim remains are carried away by toxicologists. 

The remains of Dahmer’s victims indicated that they were a part of social groups that were heavily looked down upon during that time; unfortunately, that is still the case today. One of Dahmer’s victims notoriously included 14-year-old Konerak Sinthasomphone. Konerak managed to escape Dahmer’s apartment with obvious scathe, which a few neighbors of color noticed and called law enforcement. However, the police ignored the distress coming from the witnesses and the clear evidence coming in the form of bruises and blood from Konerak. They then returned the boy to Dahmer, who would eventually be murdered and discovered by forensic anthropologists at the time of Dahmer’s arrest (Barnard 2000). 

Other than the severity of Dahmer’s crimes, what also sparked national interest and anger is that the most disadvantaged groups (color and LGBTQ+) were the majority of the victims (Barnard 2000). In addition, the ignorance of the law added to support the fact that racial and social minority groups did not feel heard and supported. Forensic anthropologists and bioarchaeology played a role in making the truth real. It is upsetting to see that in the context of the past, human behavior is supposed to make a stride in being better for tomorrow. Unfortunately, however, the bioarchaeology of disadvantaged minority and social groups is the same as before. 


Barnard, Ian. “The Racialization of Sexuality: The Queer Case of Jeffrey Dahmer.” Thamyris Overcoming Boundaries: Ethnicity, Gender and Sexuality 7.1-2 (2000): 67-97. Print. 

Jentzen JM. Micro Disasters: The Case of Serial Killer Jeffrey Dahmer. Acad Forensic Pathol. 2017 Sep;7(3):444-452. doi: 10.23907/2017.037. Epub 2017 Sep 1. PMID: 31239993; PMCID: PMC6474573.

Further Reading 

Bagawan, Juanita. Study that claims white police no more likely to shoot minorities draws fire. Accessed 1 Oct. 2022. 

McEvoy, Jemima. Video of Police Ignoring Suspected Kenosha Shooter Sparks Calls of Injustice. Accessed 1 Oct. 2022. 


Radiocarbon Revolution and Dating the Iroquois Nation

As technology develops the ability to accurately date archaeological artifacts develops at a similar rate. Early on in archaeology the only reliant method of dating was relative dating. One was able to relatively date by following the basic principle that the deeper something was in the ground the older it was. One could look at the different layers of the earth and create a chronological order of artifacts based on the layers of the earth that these artifacts resided in. Following the aforementioned principle, the deeper the artifact was the older it was, and one could create a sort of time line of artifacts using this idea.

-Figure 1: Image of artifacts in different layers of the earth. Organized chronologically.

All of this changed with the introduction of radio carbon dating. Radiocarbon dating lead the wave of absolute dating methods. It now gave archaeologists a way to accurately determine the specific age of an artifact. Radiocarbon dating was first introduced in 1949 by a team of scientists lead by the American Willard Libby. They found out that an isotope of carbon (14C specifically) decays at a constant rate. Applying this idea to dating methods, they concluded that measuring the remaining 14C in an artifact, it was possible to then date this said artifact (Archaeology World 2009:1). There were many flaws with Libby’s first method of radiocarbon but nevertheless it paved the way for future improvements and developments of radiocarbon dating. Now we have a more accurate idea of the half-life of 14C and we can give an accurate estimation of how old an artifact is.

The development of radiocarbon dating opened new doors for the dating of artifacts. Specifically, here in North America there were many improvements to the preconceived timeline of events in North America’s past. Take the Iroquois Nation for example. The Iroquois are a Native American group that inhabited the areas of Ontario Canada and upstate New York. They have a deep-rooted history in America and they left many artifacts behind for archaeologists of today to study. Many of these artifacts were found, examined, and dated pre-carbon dating. Even when these artifacts were found post-carbon dating, they were often dated using methods that produced an inaccurate timeline. The Dating Iroquoia project was developed to combat this issue, “A pilot study by Birch and Manning suggested that in one part of Northern Iroquoia, the existing ceramic chronology misplaced sites in time by as many as 50-100 years” (Dating Iroquoia 2017). They’re using absolute dating methods of radiocarbon dating to provide a more accurate chronological timeline of events in the Iroquois Nation. This will produce a more accurate history while bringing awareness to the Iroquois Nation.

-Figure 2: Image of an Iroquois artifact dated using radio carbon dating.

Further Readings:


Archaeology, C. W. (2018, September 18). Radiocarbon revolution. World Archaeology. Retrieved October 2, 2022, from

Dating Iroquoia. (2017, October 11). Retrieved October 3, 2022, from

Stratigraphy and the laws of superposition – community archaeology program: Binghamton University. Community Archaeology Program – Binghamton University. (n.d.). Retrieved October 3, 2022, from 

The Influence of Gender Roles on Archaeology

Bioarchaeology is defined as the analysis of past human remains to understand their larger culture (Renfrew and Bahn 2018, 249). These remains provide direct evidence about past peoples’ lives and can be used by archeologists to present new perspectives on cultural patterns and processes. For example, the archaeologists in 2014 who discovered the remains of a 35-40 year old man and 25-30 year old woman at La Almoloya (Figure 2), an archaeological site in Spain and a major settlement of the El Argar, were able to determine that women may have held greater power in early Bronze Age Europe than what was previously understood, challenging the notion that state power tends to nearly always be a result of patriarchal societies (Pinkowski 2021). 

Figure 1: The silver diadem found on the woman’s skull. Photograph by Mediterranean Social Archaeological Research Group, Autonomous University of Barcelona.

The woman at La Almoloya was buried with many valuables including bracelets, rings, a necklace, earlobe pugs, and a silver diadem (Figure 1) that still sat on her skull upon excavation, an artifact thought to be a symbol of power. She was ultimately dubbed the “Princess of La Almoloya.” The man, however, was not buried with anything that would have been considered precious. Instead, he was thought by archaeologists to be some sort of soldier. His bone wear suggested a lot of time spent on horseback, and his skull indicated “deep scars from a severe facial injury, possibly an old wound sustained in combat” (Metcalfe 2021).  Radiocarbon dating suggested that the two were buried around mid-17th century BCE, which was the height of El Argar’s development (Davis-Marks 2021). 

One puzzling discovery made by researchers through the analysis of Mitochondrial DNA was the lack of relationship between the adult women buried at La Almoloya. Of all 30 female genomes sequenced, not one was related to another. While some of these women did have children, they were otherwise unattached. One proposed explanation by Dr. Rihuete-Herrada, a co-author of the genetic study, was that women from different settlements “sent their daughters as an alliance with other groups that are run equally along female lines” (Pinkowski 2021). 

Figure 2: La Almoloya from a distance. Photograph by Mediterranean Social Archaeological Research Group, Autonomous University of Barcelona.

The theory that the community was ruled by the “Princess” is supported by previous archaeological findings, such as those gathered by archaeologist and historian Marina Lozano. Lozano conducted a study in 2020 that found many Argaric women were included in the production of wool textiles and linen and metallurgy, all significant economic contributions (Pinkowski 2021).

Through the use of bioarchaeology, archaeologists were able to uncover a truth about the past that had never been considered, shining a light on the ever changing nature of history and our understanding of it. The “Princess of La Almoloya” burial also demonstrates how when examining history, presumptions based on sex and gender roles cannot be made. If they are, true understanding of the past may never be achieved. 


Further reading: 


Davis-Marks, Isis. March 12, 2021. “Silver Diadem Found in Spain May Point to Bronze Age Woman’s Political Power.” Smithsonian Magazine.

Metcalfe, Tom. March 10, 2021. “Ancient woman may have been powerful European leader, 4,000 year old evidence suggests.” National Geographic,  

Pinkowski, Jennifer. November 17, 2021. “You Should See Her in a Crown. Now You Can See Her Face.” New York Times,

Renfrew, Colin, and Paul Bahn. 2018. Archaeology Essentials: Theories, Methods, and Practice. Fourth edition. Thames & Hudson. 230-250.