Bioarchaeology of the Near East, 1:5-33 (2007)

A method for the study of activity related skeletal morphologies

Theya Molleson

Department of Palaeontology, Natural History Museum, London SW7 5BD, United Kingdom

Abstract: Our knowledge of the social and economic development of past societies and the people within them can be increased through an understanding of specialized activities. If an activity was time-consuming or arduous, especially when begun at an early age and the bones still growing, the bone morphology can be modified and techniques of production used in the past are recorded. The predisposing requirements for bone morphology to be distinctively modified are a restricted series of movements that are energetic and carried out for long periods probably on a daily basis and from a young age. Interpretation of an activity depends on the objective reconstruction of the biomechanical anatomy of the signs imprinted on the bones leading to a probability based on a differential diagnosis of the possibilities, in much the same way that a clinician evaluates a patient's signs and symptoms. The significant morphology is that which differs from the normal range for the population being studied.

Key words: bone morphology; craft technology; differential diagnosis; load bearing; repetitive activity; task related

Received 6 November 2007; accepted 23 January 2008; published online 15 March 2008.

Cited by:
  1. Molleson T. (2008), A response to 'Juggling the evidence: the purported "acrobat" from Tell Brak', Antiquity 82(318), Project Gallery.
  2. Soltysiak A. (2010), Human bones from Chagar Bazar: scientific analyses [in:] McMahon A. with Colantoni C., Frane J., Soltysiak A., "Once there was a place. Settlement archaeology at Chagar Bazar, 1999-2002", British Institute for the Study of Iraq: London 2009, pp. 129–159.
  3. Ortiz A. (2010), Dimensiones de estudio de los depósitos funerarios: una perspectiva de estudio multivariable e integrada, Estrat Critic. Revista d'Arqueologia 4:9-21.
  4. Soltysiak A. (2010), Death and decay at the dawn of the city, Instytut Archeologii UW: Warszawa.
  5. Ullinger J.M. (2010), Skeletal health changes and increasing sedentism at Early Bronze Age Bab edh-Dhra, Jordan, PhD thesis, The Ohio State University.
  6. Kutterer A., Uerpmann M. (2010), Human remains from a post-Hellenistic grave-chamber in Dibba al-Hisn (Sharjah, UAE), Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy 21(2):170-198.

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