Chapter 2. How Representative Are Human Skeletal Assemblages for Population Analysis?

  1. Ron Pinhasi PhD Lecturer in Prehistoric Archaeology member2 and
  2. Simon Mays PhD Human Skeletal Biologist Visiting Lecturer member Secretary3
  1. Ron Pinhasi PhD Lecturer in Prehistoric Archaeology member2 and
  2. Chryssi Bourbou lectures fellow1

Published Online: 27 DEC 2007

DOI: 10.1002/9780470724187.ch2

Advances in Human Palaeopathology

Advances in Human Palaeopathology

How to Cite

Pinhasi, R. and Bourbou, C. (2007) How Representative Are Human Skeletal Assemblages for Population Analysis?, in Advances in Human Palaeopathology (eds R. Pinhasi and S. Mays), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9780470724187.ch2

Editor Information

  1. 2

    Department of Archaeology, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland

  2. 3

    English Heritage Centre for Archaeology, Fort Cumberland, Eastney, Portsmouth PO4 9LD, UK

Author Information

  1. 1

    28th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities, Chania, Crete, Greece

  2. 2

    Department of Archaeology, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 27 DEC 2007
  2. Published Print: 14 DEC 2007

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780470036020

Online ISBN: 9780470724187

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Keywords:

  • inter-population comparisons;
  • mortality bias;
  • morbidly bias;
  • taphonomy;
  • palaeodemography

Summary

Palaeopathologists who wish to study health profiles of past populations, changes in mortality and fertility profiles, and diachronic change in disease prevalence need to adopt a populationbased approach. Such an approach entails addressing a set of theoretical and methodological issues, many of which are shared by palaeodemographic research. This chapter examines these issues in the context of population-based palaeopathological research. It addresses problems with age estimation methods and biases in the representativeness of archaeological samples. These latter include bone survival and recovery, burial practices, excavation strategy, and other aspects that may affect preservation and completeness of a collection and have direct consequences for palaeopathological diagnosis and the interpretation of disease prevalence (palaeoepidemiology) in past populations. Next, the chapter discusses the issue of morbidity and the ‘osteological paradox’ and its relevance to a population-based approach in palaeopathology. The last section addresses the application of palaeodemographic ageing methods that are of use for palaeopathological studies, followed by the introduction of an epidemiological method of age correction to the analysis of prevalence of pathological conditions in archaeological populations.