Read Rebecca's anthropologically awesome adventures!See reading materials and other websites that makes Rebecca tick!Search through Rebecca's anthropologically awesome adventures!Meet Rebecca and follow her lead!

bi·o·ar·chae·ol·o·gy

Friday: August 19, 2011

Bioarchaeologists blur the line between archaeology and biological anthropology. They study human remains found through archaeology to determine some forensic characteristics like sex, age, and health. But unlike forensic anthropology, whose purpose is to identify an individual primarily for the sake of law, a bioarchaeologist will take the findings of several individuals to apply a general picture of the represented population. Who were they? How old is the population? How healthy were they? What diseases did they encounter? Did they encounter violence? Did they fish or hunt or what? Was their society divided, male and female? Young and old? Nobel and peasant? Religious and secular?

Mizzou Bioarchaeology Field School 2007

My best expression as a questioning anthropologist.

Obviously, since I haven’t even had my first graduate class yet, I am no authority on the subject. Instead, I will tell you a little bit about the 2007 Lima, Peru field school I attended as an undergrad through Mizzou, with Dr. Robert Benfer and (now Dr.) Keith Chan. I have tried to keep it brief, but I assure you: staying in another place for six weeks leaves a huge impression on you, and I could go on about it for a super long time.

Mizzou Bioarchaeology Field School 2007

Working on the Paloma set at Centro de Investigaciones de Zonas Aridas (Ciza) prior to getting the other lab operational.

EDIT 11/1/11: I decided without provocation to remove some other photos of skeletons originally posted due to a new awareness of offense that other people outside of physical anthropology may experience. However, I have chosen to currently keep the above image because the focus is on us students rather than the remains and I believe that it is helpful in sharing what bioarchaeologists do. For future images, I will only include those that I believe are informative for bioarchaeological purposes. You can bet your bottom dollar I’d like to donate my own skelly for classroom study and therefore I do not have an issue with photography of skeletons, so I may miss the mark sometimes on this topic. Therefore, please share your comments if you do take offense, as I wish to remain respectful. /EDIT

Mizzou Bioarchaeology Field School 2007

Dr. Benfer and Keith clarifying the contents for class at the new lab.

Mizzou Bioarchaeology Field School 2007

Our lab tent, hosted by the Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Antropología e Historia del Perú.

To start, I had experienced culture shock. Having read about it first in school did me no good – I was unaware that it was the cause of my symptoms. I was depressed, anxious, a mess unlike my normal passive self. Worse, I felt I needed to hide that from the others, and worse still, it was like double culture shock because not only was I in a foreign country, but it was also the first time I had stayed in a major metropolitan area. I coped by staying in alone while the others picked up the final student at the airport. I tried to read but found myself spying on the outside world through the window more often than not. Then my roommate Andrea and I went outside. We got brave enough to walk to the end of the street and back. Then the block. Then we were comfortable going all over the place. It was like a magic drug, but I couldn’t tell you why.

Mizzou Bioarchaeology Field School 2007

Failed attempt to replant flora at Cerro Blanco - once the ecosystem was destroyed, there is no longer any shade to keep moisture from Lima's only water source: la garua (fog).

Mizzou Bioarchaeology Field School 2007

Along with Mercedes, we were invited to attend a memorial for Julio Cesar Tello Rojas, Peru's Father of Archaeology. His oldest descendent is standing with us.

Mizzou Bioarchaeology Field School 2007

A folk dance provided for Tello's memorial.

Second, getting on a day schedule was tough for me, although there was no time difference. I just felt strung out for the beginning. Then I got sick, enough so that I kept Andrea awake all night with my nasty coughing. Dr. Benfer sent me in to the doctor (Keith was my translator) because he and another student had also had a bronchial infection. She prescribed me some meds and had me follow up with a electrocardiogram because my heartbeat was super fast. Since soon I would be venturing to high altitudes on the foray to Machu Picchu, that can create a major problem. (Turns out I was ok, it was just the high quantities of Sudafed I had been taking trying to kill the sickness). I went to the pharmacy alone, and back to the hotel alone. I struggled with the language – not a single person knew anything beyond, “Hello, how are you?” and for my part, I had studied French, not Castellano (Peruvians immediately correct you if you call it Spanish) – but immersion really does wonders. By the end of the trip, I was ordering food and having tiny conversations with the hotel staff and the “yogurt men” (workers at a shop around the corner where I bought breakfast every morning).

Mizzou Bioarchaeology Field School 2007

La garua coming down the mountains as the sun rises. We were on an Incan Trail at Buena Vista, one of Dr. Benfer's projects.

Mizzou Bioarchaeology Field School 2007

Dr. Benfer preparing to photo the winter solstice at Buena Vista.

Mizzou Bioarchaeology Field School 2007

Temple of the Fox at Buena Vista - an incredible discovery of the oldest astronomical alignment and sculptures in the round this side of the Meridians.

Third, there were moments of interpersonal conflict among the group. It was the first time I had really had to experience this for longer than an hour or something (other than growing up with my brother of course, ha!). Six weeks is a long time, and we all knew that, so I feel like we kind of vented and then let it go for the most part. I am sure there are certain moments which could have been handled better, but overall the support of Dr. Benfer and Keith got us through. All three of these things were surprises for me but in no way did they ever cause me to regret the journey.

Mizzou Bioarchaeology Field School 2007

Partly restored Pachacamac.

Mizzou Bioarchaeology Field School 2007

The Pachacamac site is adjacent to a packed city.

I fell in absolute love with Lima and its people. They wear their hearts on their sleeve. They have an odd sense of time (some would say a lack thereof). They are modern, yet hold on to old traditions like catching a cold from not wearing a scarf. Sometimes, they made us feel like superstars – when Andrea and I ventured out, we caused quite the stir with our tall, light skinned, light eyed, and light haired appearances – from school children to wrinkled adults, men and women alike. Plus, we were Americans. That made me feel silly but there was no way to hide it. I had fun with bargaining, and became quite apt at getting good prices. I love their bright colors – in the eclectic architecture (which often had roof dogs!) and especially in the Quechuan traditions: skirts and shirts and hats and braids and shawls. Inka Kola, chicha morada. Not pisco sours though, not pisco at all actually. Pollution is a problem – no emissions testing + zero rainfall to rust out vehicles = vehicles fully operational that are much much older than me. Plus there is just a lot of traffic. I also did not love their traffic laws (or lack thereof) although it sure was a rush! Dr. Benfer says they do follow rules, just not the red-light-green-light one-lane-two-way kind. (His suggestion: pick an old taxi driver – they are the ones who obviously know how to survive!)

Mizzou Bioarchaeology Field School 2007

El Beso, at El Parque del Amor in Lima.

Mizzou Bioarchaeology Field School 2007

The Old Wall at Parque de la Muralla in Lima.

Dr. Benfer became one of my all time favorite teachers. He is bursting at the seams with information and gives off a super amount of energy. Keith was a great balance, very calm and focused, and we became friends over a little Yoshi’s Island when off the clock. He recently gave me his doctoral dissertation and I can’t wait to finish reading it. Crystal had some interesting stories from her recent stay in Japan, and Andrea was a crazier-kookier version of myself. Ruthy and I became good friends and I try to visit her when I see my brother on the East Coast. Mercedes Delgado also joined us on several occasions, and I found a stone tool at Caral for archaeologist Gloria Villareal (Dr. Benfer refers to her as the lithics expert). True story!

Mizzou Bioarchaeology Field School 2007

Gloria is holding the stone tool I found at Chupacigarro, also known as Caral, which is the earliest known South American civilization.

Mizzou Bioarchaeology Field School 2007

Dr. Benfer discusses Caral's archeoastronomical significance.

Mizzou Bioarchaeology Field School 2007

Caral is a massive complex. This is but one of the many temples. The valley use to be rich in vegetation.

Mizzou Bioarchaeology Field School 2007

Another feature of Caral.

Mizzou Bioarchaeology Field School 2007

Peruvians often restore ruins to what they believe the structures once were.

Mizzou Bioarchaeology Field School 2007

Restored structures are noted so the original stones can be seen as separate from the hypothesized restoration.

Mizzou Bioarchaeology Field School 2007

One of the researchers of Chupacigarro prepares a ceremony for all of us gathered to honor Pachamama.

We saw a lot of significant archaeological sites, and at certain points I was very sad that I did not know Castellano because I missed out on some great tours. All I could do was walk about and guess at what I was looking at while the others, who knew enough of the language to listen, but not enough to translate easily for me, followed the tour guides. At the end of the school, we stayed another week to check out the truly awe-inspiring Machu Picchu and its surrounding sister sites. We started in Cusco to acclimate to the altitude. Then we took a train to Aguas Calientes. A bus up half the mountain to Machu Picchu, and a major hike to the summit.

Mizzou Bioarchaeology Field School 2007

The main plaza at Cusco. I preferred Lima.

Mizzou Bioarchaeology Field School 2007

Tourist trap clue: A traditionally dressed girl targeting gringas at Cusco for money in exchange for photos (Andrea bought it:)

Mizzou Bioarchaeology Field School 2007

The terraces of Pisac, part of the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

Mizzou Bioarchaeology Field School 2007

The ruins of Pisac.

Mizzou Bioarchaeology Field School 2007

Amazing Incan architecture (lacking mortar) at Pisac.

Mizzou Bioarchaeology Field School 2007

The terraces of Ollantaytambo, another site associated with the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

Mizzou Bioarchaeology Field School 2007

The Wall of the Six Monoliths at Ollantaytambo.

Mizzou Bioarchaeology Field School 2007

Ruthy's cousin Abe flew in after the school ended. Here he is at the marketplace at the bottom of Aguas Calientes. And I had thought Cusco was bad...

My great memories of Peru are shadowed by the loss of two people I met during the the process. Dr. Kathy Forgey, who had worked with the field school team previously, helped me get accepted to the field school by spending a lot of time with me working on the application. She had been teaching at IUN but had never met me prior to that, yet she offered her assistance with excitement to send me on my way. Gloria’s son, Fernando Castro-Villareal, also studied with us. He took us on several different outings to see Lima and meet his friends so that we could have the full resident experience. Unfortunately, both passed away in 2010, much too early for either of them.

Mizzou Bioarchaeology Field School 2007

The beauty of Machu Picchu.

Mizzou Bioarchaeology Field School 2007

Awe-inpsiring views of Machu Picchu's ruins amid the mountains.

Mizzou Bioarchaeology Field School 2007

Llamas and/or alpacas at Machu Picchu.

Places we visited:

Lima
Museo de la Nacion

Caral
BuenaVista
Pachacamac 

Cusco

Sacred Valley of the Incas
Pisac
Ollantaytambo

Aguas Calientes
Machu Picchu 

Texts used for class (reference information can be found on the Library page):

Bioarchaeology: Interpreting Behavior from the Human Skeleton
Standards for Data Collection from Human Skeletal Remains
The Human Bone Manual
Ancient Health: Skeletal Indicators of Agricultural and Economic Intensification
Early Villages in the Western Hemisphere

Further information about the Paloma set:

The Preceramic Period Site of Paloma, Peru: Bioindications of Improving Adaption to Sedentism
Faunal Remains from Paloma, an Archaic Site in Peru
Encyclopedia of Archaeology: Geographic Overviews, The Americas (South)/Early South American Villages

Further information about the Armatambo set:

Life in the Late Intermediate Period at Armatambo, Peru

 

See other entries with similar topics:

Leave a remark!

*What is your name?

*What is your email? (Not published.)

What is your web address? (Optional)

(Required fields denoted with *.)


World Map World Map
australopithechic.anthroclub.com: copyright 2011 and beyond