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Keywords:

  • bioarchaeology;
  • human biology;
  • interdisciplinary;
  • skeletal stress;
  • paleopathology

ABSTRACT

The concepts of “stress” and “health” are foundational in physical anthropology as guidelines for interpreting human behavior and biocultural adaptation in the past and present. Though related, stress and health are not coterminous, and while the term “health” encompasses some aspects of “stress,” health refers to a more holistic condition beyond just physiological disruption, and is of considerable significance in contributing to anthropologists' understanding of humanity's lived experiences. Bioarchaeological interpretations of human health generally are made from datasets consisting of skeletal markers of stress, markers that result from (chronic) physiological disruption (e.g., porotic hyperostosis; linear enamel hypoplasia). Non-specific indicators of stress may measure episodes of stress and indicate that infection, disease, or nutritional deficiencies were present in a population, but in assessing these markers, bioarchaeologists are not measuring “health” in the same way as are human biologists, medical anthropologists, or primatologists. Rather than continue to diverge on separate (albeit parallel) trajectories, bioarchaeologists are advised to pursue interlinkages with other subfields within physical anthropology toward bridging “stress” and “health.” The papers in this special symposium set include bioarchaeologists, human biologists, molecular anthropologists, and primatologists whose research develops this link between the concepts of “stress” and “health,” encouraging new avenues for bioarchaeologists to consider and reconsider health in past human populations. Am J Phys Anthropol 155:181–185, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.