What Bones Can Tell Us

Author:  Ali Farhan
Institution:  repss
Date:  November 2007

History is found in many things and places. In recent times, scientists have uncovered a great deal about past life through bones. And many of the findings have overturned common wisdom. For example, it was previously thought that the "invention" of human agriculture more than ten thousand years ago had immense benefits such as improved access to food, and more leisure time. However, ample research on archeological remains of human bones during the agricultural transition provided evidence to the contrary. The over-reliance on a single source of food, crowded conditions, and increasing social inequality brought about by land ownership were associated with pathological signs in bones such as increased pathogen load, and dental diseases.

In this issue, Weinstein looks at animals bones to find out more about the transition to Early Copper Age. Weinstein searched, cleaned and tabulated various animal bones found in two sites in what is now modern-day Hungary. What she found is an intriguing case of a culture making adjustments to the environmental conditions. For example, compared to the late Neolithic, the Copper cultures investigated had a much higher proportion of bones from domesticated animals, indicating the growing sophistication of animal husbandry. Weinstein's research is part of a much larger archaeological project aimed at understanding the Early Copper Age transition. Apart from the science, it must have been quite an outdoor experience for an undergraduate involved in an archaeological dig!

Farhan Ali

Psychology and Social Sciences Research Editor