The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Working activities or workload? categorization of occupation in identified skeletal series for the analysis of activity-related osseous changes


1Laboratory of prehistoric archaeology and anthropology, University of Geneva, 2CRIA – Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, 3CIAS - Research Centre for Anthropology and Health, University of Coimbra, 4Anthropological Institute & Museum, University of Zurich, 5Archaeological Sciences, University of Bradford

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One aspect that contributes to clarify the association between activity-related osseous changes (AROC) and activity is the use of Identified Skeletal Collections for which the individual’s occupation is known. Different studies have shown both positive and negative associations. These dissonances reflect not only the biological factors – osseous changes, chosen for analysis -, but also the methods considered in their interpretation and the manner in which occupations were grouped. Furthermore, there is no consensus regarding the criteria of classification in this area. The need to standardize the concept of occupation in its multiple expressions is currently addressed by a working group created after the workshop “Musculoskeletal Stress Markers (MSM): limitations and achievements in the reconstruction of past activity patterns” (Coimbra University, 2009). The following informations were collected from publications dedicated to AROC for the most important European Collections (i.e. Portugal, UK, Italy, Switzerland): type and number of category, assessment criteria for category and actual attribution of occupations to category. A large cross-table was created including, for each individual the possible classifications, from the most general group considering both socio-cultural and biological criteria (e.g. manual vs. non-manual), to the more specific (a single profession). Since the information available for sexes is very unequal, this parameter was established separately. The cross-table revealed two advantages: it highlights the difficulties found by researchers, clarifying agreements and disagreements, and allows further comparisons between collections from different periods and areas. It is a useful tool for the standardization of occupation categories for future studies.

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