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

Will it be a boom or a bust: the last fifty years of juvenile research in physical anthropology and implications for future research


Department of Anthropology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Saturday 11:00-11:15, Parlors Add to calendar

Research on human juvenile remains and ontogenetic data have long been important in understanding human variation and adaptation. These studies have been used to explore differences among hominin species, patterns of health among groups practicing different subsistence economies, and the development of adult morphologies. Papers and meetings presentations from the last two decades have especially highlighted the utility and many applications of juvenile research. However, trends in the quantity and types of studies on juveniles have not been examined.

This study investigates patterns in the frequency of juvenile studies through a survey of meeting abstracts and articles published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology from 1950 to 2011. Only publications in which human subadults are used as the primary or a comparative sample are considered. Results reveal that very few papers incorporated juvenile remains prior to 1990. A significant increase in publications occurs after 1990. Since 1995, anthropological studies of juveniles have remained fairly constant; the proportion of American Journal of Physical Anthropology articles focusing on juveniles has only risen slightly between 1995 and 2011. A small increase in cultural and biomedical studies on modern living children, not skeletal populations, has driven this increase.

This survey of the literature highlights an increased focus on understanding juvenile human biology and morphology in the last two decades. Moreover, the breadth of study topics has grown, reflecting greater research focus, increased availability of data, and more sophisticated analytical methods.

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