Sociology and Anthropology
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Archaeology, Bioarchaeology, and Biological Anthropology

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Arch siteArchaeology is the systematic study of the human past through material remains. Archaeologists examine diverse remnants of human actions through excavation, recovery, and material analyses. Cultural systems through time and space are reconstructed by examining ancient social, political, religious, and economic systems through both a regional and comparative perspective. As such, archaeologists rely on a plethora of methods and techniques avenues including specific artifact analyses (bones, ceramics, lithics, paleobotany) as well as geographic information systems (GIS).    

Biological anthropology is the study of humans and non-human primates from an evolutionary and biocultural perspective. It is the most humanistic of scientific disciplines due to the complex cultural organization, institutions, and symbolism associated with human populations, yet the most biologically oriented humanistic discipline due to the unifying emphasis on evolutionary theory. Biological anthropologists study diverse subject matter including the behavior and biology of non-human primates, the evolution of human populations based on fossil and genetic data, and the health, well-being, and resiliency of contemporary human populations.

Teeth

Bioarchaeology is a unique discipline that focuses on the study of human skeletal remains within their archaeological and mortuary contexts. It, therefore, emphasizes approaches from biological anthropology and archaeology, and derives theoretical guidance from both cultural anthropology and evolutionary biology. Bioarchaeologists use the methods of skeletal biology, mortuary archaeology, and the archaeological record to answer questions about the lives and lifestyles of past populations.

Archaeological and bioarchaeological research at George Mason University includes questions associated with mortuary ritual and behavior, social organization, social identities, urbanism, stress and life history, human interactions with animals, animals as ritual products, violence and warfare, developmental stress, evolutionary morphology, paleopathology, and ancient foodways. Regional foci include Andean South America, Northeast Asia, Mesoamerica, and North America. We cover both hunter-gatherer and complex social groups.

The undergraduate program (BA: Anthropology) at George Mason University allows students the opportunity to complete coursework in biological anthropology, archaeology, and cultural anthropology as well as specialized classes in bioarchaeology. This holistic background in anthropology will allow students to complete the necessary undergraduate requirements for concentration in archaeology or bioarchaeology as graduate students. At present, undergraduate concentrations in areas such as GIS, paleontology, and biology, are also underway. Please contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies for more information.

Dr. Haagen Klaus with students.

The graduate program (MA: Anthropology) at George Mason University provides students with the opportunity to complete a series of courses in biological anthropology, archaeology, and cultural anthropology while specializing in bioarchaeological research. Faculty offer courses in areas of specialization that include Andean Prehistory, Bioarchaeology, Dental Anthropology, Evolutionary Theory, Humans and Animals, Human Growth and Development, Human Origins, Mortuary Archaeology, Violence and Sacrifice, and Zooarchaeology. All students are required to complete an MA thesis, and the goal of the program is to prepare students for matriculation to highly competitive Ph.D. programs. Please contact our core faculty for more information on our MA program.

CORE FACULTY AT GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY

Haagen Klaus: bone biology, paleopathology, ritual violence, ethnogenesis, mortuary archaeology; complex societies of Andean South America

Nawa Sugiyama: zooarchaeology, stable isotopes, human/animal interactions, Mesoamerica

Daniel H. Temple: developmental stress, life history, hunter-gatherer mortuary ritual, evolutionary morphology, Northeast Asia, North America

RESOURCE FACULTY

George Mason University

Justin Lowry: Nicaragua, Mesoamerica, GIS

Sven Fuhrmann: Geovisualization, Cartography, Geoinformation Science, User-Centered Design, Spatial Cognition

Bethany Usher: bioarchaeology, quantitative methods, Scandinavia

Jacquelyn Williamson: Ancient Egyptian art, archaeology, and language, gender and religious hierarchies

National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

Christopher Dudar: biocultural approaches, paleopathology, repatriation, human osteology

David Hunt: forensic anthropology, human osteology, history of biological anthropology

Briana Pobiner: zooarchaeology, taphonomy, Early Stone Age, Africa, museum education

Torben Rick: historical ecology, conservation biology and archaeology, North America

Sabrina Sholts: 3D-imaging, bone chemistry, environmental health

Douglas Ubelaker: bioarchaeology, forensic anthropology

National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution

Luis Antonio Curet: Caribbean archaeology, archaeological ceramics, social organization, household archaeology, archaeological theory, archaeology of food

Museum Conservation Institute, Smithsonian Institution

Christine France: Stable isotopes, archaeology, paleontology, bones, teeth, provenance, demographics 

Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Washington, D.C.

Jennifer Love: skeletal indicators of child abuse, bone health, skeletal trauma

George Washington University

Jeffrey P. Blomster: Mesoamerica, social complexity, interregional interaction, Oaxaca

Archaeological Sciences Lab: Zooarchaeology and Isotope Prep

About Us

Dr. Nawa SugiyamaEstablished in 2016, the Archaeological Sciences lab provides training and research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students interested in archaeological or physical anthropological research, particularly those interested in utilizing zooarchaeological and isotopic methods. Directed by Dr. Nawa Sugiyama, the Archaeological Sciences Lab is located at the Krasnow Institute of Advanced Studies building.

The lab is currently establishing a comparative zoology collection to conduct zooarchaeological analysis on past societies to reconstruct ancient human-animal relationships, subsistence strategies, and environmental changes. In addition the lab can provide training for students interested in learning to prepare archaeological and modern specimens of bones, teeth, shells, plants, hair/fur, and skin. Chemical signatures of these products encode paleodiets, migration patterns, and environmental conditions of animals and humans. With the continued collaboration with Dr. Christine France from the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum Conservation Institute, we are able to analyze the carbon (13C/12C), nitrogen (15N/14N) and oxygen (18O/16O) isotopes by examining collagen, apatite and phosphate samples.

Research and Teaching

Dr. Sugiyama is currently accepting undergraduate and graduate students interested in pursuing zooarchaeological and/or stable isotopic analysis during their archaeological or physical anthropological training. In addition, Dr. Sugiyama has an active field project at the Classic Mesoamerican site of Teotihuacan, Mexico, and is encouraging students searching for laboratory and field opportunities both at George Mason University and on-site in Mexico to contact her directly for addition information.

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