The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)


Excavating Method, Theory and Data with George: Bringing Together Bioarchaeology and Social Theory

DEBRA L. MARTIN.

Anthropology, UNLV

Saturday Afternoon, 200DE Add to calendar

In working with ancient human skeletal remains, George was insistent on keeping a range of perspectives in the mix, from the ethics of what we do, to formulating questions that can be answered with empirical data, to using models that keep important variables from being swamped by all other variables. The biocultural model that George and his students worked on to improve was very valuable in the early years of bioarchaeology because it located the biological remains within a richly conceived cultural context. In using archaeological remains to explain human behavior in the past, it meant that social theory was a necessary and important component in the interpretive potential of the data. George insisted that in thinking through why people died before their time, ideas and theories about human behavior be incorporated into bioarchaeological studies. Theories about gender differences/similarities, inequality and hierarchies, demography, political-economy and stratified societies all began to show up in his graduate student’s work. In part, George always wanted to know: What is your question? What is driving your research? How will you make sense of the data? These in turn demanded a rigorous use of empirical data to address the large and pressing questions of our time. He captured all of this in a timely, concise and ultimately seminal publication entitled “Bioarchaeology as Anthropology” (2003 Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association Vol 13, pp 27-40).

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