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The study of hunter-gatherers began as an intellectual exercise in producing social and economic structures that contrasted with industrial capitalism. Paradigms derived from this approach resulted in the evaluation of hunter-gatherers as a progressive phase in cultural evolution, despite the random, non-progressive nature of evolution. Modern anthropological studies of hunter-gatherers continued to emphasize an evolutionary approach, with a select few scholars advocating for inquiries into purposeful behavior. Bioarchaeological studies followed this intellectual trajectory by juxtaposing hunter-gatherers as a constant and abiding comparative sample used to measure the success of agricultural and urban economic structures. Resilience theory represents one way that the empirical evolutionary approach may be integrated with paradigms emphasizing the humanistic goals of practice theory in the study of hunter-gatherers. This chapter introduces resilience theory as a useful way to evaluate the adaptive cycles of hunter-gatherer cultural and socioecological evolution in bioarchaeological perspective and sets forth the goals for this volume.
This chapter considers evidence for a dietary transition during the Middle Holocene climatic optimum in the central Sahara. Using data from the site of Gobero (Niger), data on dental health are compared between two occupation phases to determine if a dietary transition had occurred. These sites were associated with a once vibrant lake basin that was home to human populations from around 10,000 to 4,000 years ago, with an occupational hiatus coincident with the 8.2kya. Results indicate limited evidence for a change in dental disease patterns through time, which suggests that any dietary transition that occurred was relatively minor and not a complete restructuring of human lifeways. Comparing these data to a broader sample of pastoralist populations suggests the data from Gobero lack the signatures of the adoption of pastoralism and instead reflect the continuation of a hunter-gatherer lifeway during the Early and Middle Holocene of the central Sahara. Changes in mortuary practices and broader site level organization may indicate the emergence of incipient social complexity in the form of an ownership society.
Hunter-gatherer lifestyles defined the origins of modern humans and for tens of thousands of years were the only form of subsistence our species knew. This changed with the advent of food production, which occurred at different times throughout the world. The chapters in this volume explore the different ways that hunter-gatherer societies around the world adapted to changing social and ecological circumstances while still maintaining a predominantly hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Couched specifically within the framework of resilience theory, the authors use contextualized bioarchaeological analyses of health, diet, mobility, and funerary practices to explore how hunter-gatherers responded to challenges and actively resisted change that diminished the core of their social identity and worldview.
The lives of kings, poets, authors, criminals and celebrities are a perpetual fascination in the media and popular culture, and for decades anthropologists and other scientists have participated in 'post-mortem dissections' of the lives of historical figures. In this field of biohistory, researchers have identified and analyzed these figures' bodies using technologies such as DNA fingerprinting, biochemical assays, and skeletal biology. This book brings together biohistorical case studies for the first time, and considers the role of the anthropologist in the writing of historical narratives surrounding the deceased. Contributors theorize biohistory with respect to the sociology of the body, examining the ethical implications of biohistorical work and the diversity of social theoretical perspectives that researchers' work may relate to. The volume defines scales of biohistorical engagement, providing readers with a critical sense of scale and the different paths to 'historical notoriety' that can emerge with respect to human remains.