Here's another post from my backlog. In February of 2014, I attended the first Osteology in the Carolinas meeting. This year's event was held on February 7, 2015, hosted by UNCG, and organized by our own Bob Anemone. Twelve papers were given, and there were around 20-30 attendees, some from as far away as Virginia and South Carolina. Another set of really interesting papers, one of which was given by one of our UNCG anthropology undergraduates, Alexa Uberseder (great job, Alexa!) on our work at Olduvai Gorge this past summer. Some snippets from my notes:
- Gwen Robbins Schug (Appalachian State) focused on re-imagining the idea of social collapse, a theme made very famous by Jared Diamond's 2005 book "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed." In that book, he cites examples of past societies that apparently outstripped their resources and thus collapsed. Gwen made the point that "collapse" may not be the best word, as a detailed examination of the archaeological record indicates that when societies undergo dramatic changes, significant reorganization usually occurs, but the cultural framework remains intact. In fact, what often happens, as her work among South Asian prehistoric sites demonstrates, is that people decide to either remain in cities or move to more rural settings. The latter typically results in a signature that can be misunderstood as a total collapse of society.
- Megan Perry (East Carolina), who spoke at least year's meeting, and one of her graduate students, Kathryn Parker, both gave talks on attempts to identify the origin of people living in Byzantine and early Islamic times in the Middle East. By assessing the isotopic signatures in food items or geological formations on the landscape, it is possible to determine where people did most of their eating and to track trade routes.
- David Hines (University of Florida and Regime Crimes Liaison Office Mass Graves Investigation Team) summarized some recent work on extracting DNA from skeletons in mass graves in associated with ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. Interestingly, they found that some bones are better for producing DNA profiles than others (as it turns out, the pelvis and femur work best).
- The last talk for which I took detailed notes was by Ashley Gosselin-Ildari (Duke University), who spoke about the use of clickers in large, introductory biological anthropology courses to encourage active learning. This was interesting, and timely, since I started using an on-line Student Response System (SRS) called Socrative to achieve the same goal. I am looking forward to hearing the student reaction at the end of the semester.