What is Bioarchaeology?
Bioarchaeology focuses on the scientific investigation of biological remains associated with archaeological sites. As such, bioarchaeology comprises a diverse range of disciplines, including bioanthropology (the study of human remains), zooarchaeology (the study of non-human animal remains), archaeobotany (the study of plant remains), molecular biology and taphonomy. Taphonomy – literally ‘the laws of burial – is itself a diverse discipline that studies the processes that have disturbed, damaged, or modified remains between the moment of death or deposition and subsequent recovery, to assist in discriminating between natural processes and changes induced by human behaviour.
What does a Bioarchaeologist do?
Bioarchaeologists study the organic remains from archaeological sites to address questions about evolution, past human activities, subsistence, health, nutrition and how humans have interacted with, or modified their natural environments. Bioarchaeological research has strong links with other archaeological disciplines, such as the study of associated cultural remains and the dating of the archaeological record. As every subdiscipline of archaeology, the ultimate goal is gaining a better understanding of past societies.
What do we do at CAS?
CAS researchers have expertise in the analysis of vertebrate remains recovered from archaeological contexts, primarily focussed on the Palaeolithic of the tropical Asia-Pacific region. Determination of the taxa represented in and across sites, and identification of marks and modifications left by humans and other animals on fossilised bones, can provide important clues regarding past natural environments, temporal fluctuations within these environments, and vital information regarding human past subsistence and survival strategies.
Related CAS studies address the development of new geochemical analytical tools for application on fossilised remains, gaining a better understanding of funerary practices and conducting taphonomic experiments directed at understanding different depositional environments and what conditions have influenced the preservation and degradation of remains recovered from archaeological sites.