„More than just bones” - Understanding past human behaviour through the study of human remains

Human behaviour is a mental, physical, and social activity characterizing the various stages of human life. Past human behaviour can manifest through material objects that had an active role in ancient lives. However, these are only the indirect evidence of once-lived people; but their skeletal remains are the most direct way to experience them. Researchers can study bones and their burial context with different scientific methods, but their interpretation of them is far from beyond the raw evaluation of metric or morphological data. Social aspects of past human lives are also an essential issue to interpret human remains. We need to consider people’s thoughts and intentions to explain the mortuary activity and the cause of certain deaths. These are strongly interconnected with past cultural or belief systems which could relate differently to the different segments of society, the sick or the dead. Changes in the biological or socio-cultural environment can also induce adaptation to new life strategies to overcome different health challenges. Therefore, the presence of certain pathological traits can indicate certain behavioural transformations in interpersonal relations, resource use, or child-rearing.

This seminar intends to explore the role of human behaviour in the formation of burial grounds; how human behaviour continuously changes in different historical time frames. How can physical anthropology contribute to exploring these questions from the recovery of bones on the field to the evaluation of data produced by analytical laboratory methods?


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