Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2024

Course Description

Why Does This Course Matter? Can a bone be read like a book? This course approaches the archaeological analysis of human bones through both cultural and biological lenses. How do we read personal histories of disease, violence, labor, and migration in human bones? What stories do ancient people’s bodies tell us not only about their lives but also about the societies in which they lived? Did ancient people think of death in the same way that we do? This course will begin to unravel such mysteries for you. How This Course Will Help We have three main tasks for the semester. First, I wanted you to understand what sort of information archaeologists can glean from human remains and how they do so. Toward this end, we will explore the skeletal identification and analysis of sex, age at death, diet, disease, injury, and migration. Our second task is to understand what the analysis of human bones and burial practices can reveal about the economic, social, and ideological organization of ancient societies. Our focus here will include mortuary rituals and the relationship between the living and the dead. A final major task this semester is to improve your confidence and capability working with quantitative data. You will practice making calculations and interpreting quantitative data relevant to the analysis of human bones. You will also learn how to effectively represent quantitative data visually and how to use such data to make sound judgments and persuasive arguments.

Student Outcomes

Students will be able to . . .

  • Identify what biological and cultural data can be recovered from human remains.
  • Understand the methods by which archaeologists recover biological and cultural data from human remains.
  • Interpret human osteological data and burial practices to make interferences about past societies.
  • Apply quantitative tools to the analysis and interpretation of human bones.