ACH 508: Advanced Methods in Human Osteoarchaeology

This page is under construction - check back soon for finalised information


Course Title Advanced Methods in Human Osteoarchaeology 
Course Code ACH 508
Course Type Elective
Level PhD 
Instructor's Name  Asst. Prof. Efthymia Nikita (Lead Instructor) 
Lectures per Week  1
Laboratories per Week 2
Course Purpose and Objectives This course will provide training in advanced human osteoarchaeological skills that extend beyond and complement the core issues explored in introductory courses onhuman osteology. The focus is on metric and nonmetric skeletal variation asexpressed in the context of a) the variability that characterizes the juvenile skeletonand the challenges this poses, b) palaeopathological assessment and interpretation,c) activity markers, and d) biodistance markers. The aim is for students to distinguishbetween normal and abnormal skeletal morphology and gain expertise inspecialized osteoarchaeological methods for capturing and analyzing differentmorphological parameters. In addition, students will gain analytical skills applicablein human osteoarchaeology with an emphasis on digital technologies andmicroanalytical methods, as well as in-depth knowledge on the scientific principlesof biomolecular and biochemical methods broadly used with skeletal remains. Thecourse will rely heavily on hands-on training in the STARC laboratories.
Learning Outcomes The students will broaden their knowledge in metric and nonmetric skeletal variation and they will gain a solid understanding of how this variation manifests under normal (growth and development, inherited skeletal variation) and ‘abnormal’ (pathological) conditions. In addition, human musculoskeletal anatomy will be explored, following a functional approach. Furthermore, the students will gain a solid understanding of the principles and applications of advanced osteoarchaeological techniques (three-dimensional scanning technology/geometric morphometrics and microscopic analysis) and they will comprehend the scientific principles of ancient DNA and isotopic analysis as invaluable resources regarding palaeomobility and palaeodiet. The emphasis will be on the students gaining practical skills in performing more specialized osteoarchaeological analyses. All methods will be discussed using ample case studies from the EMME in order to highlight their use in providing insights to diverse aspects of past life in this region.
Prerequisites None
Background Requirements None
Course Content 1. Juvenile osteology
1.1. Principles of skeletal growth and development
1.2. Metric and morphological juvenile skeletal variation
1.3. Growth pattern studies

2.  Human functional anatomy
2.1. Joints and their movements
2.2. Muscle and its actions
2.3. Human upright stance, sitting and locomotion
2.4. Skeletal responses to mechanical stress
2.5. Prospects and limitations of past activity reconstruction

3. Palaeopathological analysis
3.1. The Osteological Paradox
3.2. Macroscopic palaeopathological examination
3.3. Histological and biomolecular methods

4. Digital applications in human osteoarchaeology
4.1. Basic principles of 3D surface scanning
4.2. Biodistance analysis (geometric morphometrics)
4.3. Cross-sectional geometry of long bone diaphyses

5. Microanalytical techniques in human osteoarchaeology
5.1. Dental microwear analysis
5.2. Applications of (3D) microscopy (skeletal markers of activity, ageing, palaeopathology)
5.3. Dietary and occupational microdebris in dental calculus

6. Principles and applications of ancient DNA analysis

7. Principles and applications of stable isotopes analysis

Teaching Methodology Lectures, seminars, laboratory practicals
Bibliography 1. Herrmann B, Hummel S. 2012. Ancient DNA: recovery and analysis of genetic material from paleontological, archaeological, museum, medical,
and forensic specimens. New York: Springer.
2. McKinnon P, Morris J. 2005. Oxford Textbook of Functional Anatomy: Volume 1: Musculoskeletal System, 2nd edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
3. Kuzminsky SC, Gardiner MS. 2012. Three-dimensional laser scanning: potential uses for museum conservation and scientific research. Journal of Archaeological Science 39: 2744-2751.
4. Makarewicz CA, Sealy J. 2015. Dietary reconstruction, mobility, and the analysis of ancient skeletal tissues: expanding the prospects of stable isotope research in archaeology. Journal of Archaeological Science 56: 146-158.
5. Nikita E. 2017. Osteoarchaeology: A Guide to the Macroscopic Study of Human Skeletal Remains. San Diego: Academic Press. 
6. Ortner DJ. 2003. Identification of Pathological Conditions in Human Skeletal Remains. San Diego: Academic Press.
7. Radini A, Nikita E, Buckley S, Copeland L, Hardy K. 2017. Beyond Food: The multiple pathways for the inclusion of materials into ancient dental calculus. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 162 Suppl 63: 71-83.
8. Roberts CA, Manchester K. 2005. Archaeology of Disease. Stroud: Sutton Publishing.
9. Saunders SR. 2008. Subadult skeletons and growth related studies. In: Katzenberg MA, Saunders SR (eds.) Biological Anthropology of the Human Skeleton. New York: Wiley, pp. 117-148.
10. Scheuer L, Black S, Schaefer M. 2008. Juvenile Osteology: A Laboratory and Field Manual. San Diego: Academic Press.
11. Scott RS, Teaford MF, Ungar PS. 2012. Dental microwear texture and anthropoid diets. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 147: 551–579.
Assessment Students will be asked to produce 2 assignments during the course of the semester, followed by a research methods paper.
Language English