Bioarchaeology: The People of Arroyo Hondo

Short Seminar

July 27–29, 2001

This seminar brought together eleven participants and three discussants to explore the applications of bioarchaeology—the study of human remains through archaeology—to the Arroyo Hondo site in Santa Fe, New Mexico, as well as to the broader field of Southwestern Archaeology. During three days of intense discussion combined with a site visit, the scholars delineated a range of "big picture" questions and the lines of evidence needed to evaluate them.

On Friday, the focus was specifically on Arroyo Hondo and the questions posed from bioarchaeology regarding genetics, artifacts/mortuary materials, chronology of site occupation, demography/age distribution, and nutrition and health processes. Larger issues of ritual organization, political/social organization, and migration patterns were also raised. To accommodate changing methods of analysis and observation, the importance of descriptive protocols and categories in recording information was emphasized.

Saturday's discussions revolved around bioarchaeology and the Southwest, beginning with "cautionary tales," a reflection on a variety of data quality issues. The afternoon session determined that many "big picture" questions could be addressed through bioarchaeology, such as shifting patterns in agriculture and regional population interaction. "Virtually all of the key questions will require analysis of temporal and spatial patterns of a regional level," summarized co-chair Lane Beck. Repatriation and interactions with Native American groups focused Saturday evening's session, with a special emphasis on the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).

"How do we know what we know?" was the question that guided the Sunday sessions, which covered a review of knowledge foundations, how bioarchaeological data might interest human biologists, a variety of data issues (such as how diet relates to disease and bridging the fields of bioarchaeology, oral history, and ethnohistory), and the contribution to Southwestern Archaeology. Participants expressed an enhanced awareness of the potential for Southwestern bioarchaeology, and highlighted the promising implementation of NAGPRA for opening new lines of data and of standards. 

Lane Beck, Chair Department of Anthropology, Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona
Anne M. Palkovich, Chair Department of Anthropology and Sociology, George Mason University
Jane E. Buikstra Department of Anthropology, University of New Mexico
Darna Dufour Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado
George J. Gumerman Arizona State Museum Invited Discussant
Rebecca Huss-Ashmore Department of Anthropology, University Museum, University of Pennsylvania
Debra L. Martin Department of Anthropology, School of Natural Science, Hampshire College (unable to attend)
George Milner Department of Anthropology, Pennsylvania State University
Doug Schwartz President, School of American Research
James Snead George Mason University Invited Discussant
Ann L. Stodder Department of Anthropology, The Field Museum
Anne Stone Department of Anthropology, University of New Mexico
Alan Swedlund Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts
John Ware Museum of New Mexico Invited Discussant

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