chapter  4
22 Pages

Explaining the Past

This chapter examines the ways in which archaeologists study individuals and groups, a process that relies heavily on bioarchaeology, the study of human remains. Individuals like the Ice Man reveal the power of bioarchaeology, the multidisciplinary study of ancient human remains, as a way of understanding the people of the past and their behavior. The chapter uses artifacts, forensics, and other material remains to look behind the facades of ancient societies at the complex interactions between groups and individuals that are at the very heart of all human societies. It ends with a discussion of trade and exchange, religion and ideology, both of which flourish within often elaborate social contexts. Trade appears in the archaeological record in the form of such exotic objects as seashells far inland. Strontium has the potential to write people's life stories, but there is a long way to go before there is a sufficient archive of strontium signatures to allow anything more than provisional insights.