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Shadows in the Soil: Human Bones &…

Shadows in the Soil: Human Bones & Archaeology (original 2001; edition 2001)

by Tony Waldron

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Title:Shadows in the Soil: Human Bones & Archaeology
Authors:Tony Waldron
Info:Stroud : Tempus, 2001
Tags:archaeology, palaeopathology, osteology, osteoarchaeology

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Shadows in the Soil: Human Bones & Archaeology by T. Waldron (2001)



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Waldron describes Shadows in the Soil as offering a 'guided tour' of palaeo-osteology as opposed to an exhaustive excursion. He is undoubtedly right, but this is no bad thing; in fact, what could have been a laborious examination of details is actually a rather fascinating and easygoing introduction to the field.

Beginning with the basics, Waldron explains how the age, sex, height, weight, and (with important caveats) the potential occupation of the deceased can be ascertained, before then explaining how the likely cause of death is determined (be it trauma, disease, suicide, execution, or even cannibalism). The final section is dedicated to the various traces disease leaves on the skeleton, focussing on osteoarthritis, various arthropathies, tuberculosis, leprosy, syphilis, and cancer, while also taking note of fractures, amputation, child abuse, trephination, and more besides (his explanation of how isotopic analysis can potentially indicate diet is especially interesting).

Waldron proves himself a superb guide: his enthusiasm for the subject is obvious yet in no way excessive, and unlike many specialist authors he notes his subject's faults along with the achievements. He mostly avoids technical jargon but where he deems it necessary he takes care to ensure that it is adequately explained. The many photographs and diagrams are of course invaluable in such a work.

This is an altogether great introduction, being both informative and rewarding, and would certainly be of benefit to anyone requiring insight into the use of human bones in archaeology.
  PickledOnion42 | Dec 21, 2012 |
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Interest in human remains has probably never been so great as at present.
Beheading results in characteristic damage to the skeleton and there should be no difficulty in recognising it. Finding a body buried with its head between its knees will generally alert the excavator to the fact that something is not quite right.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0752414887, Paperback)

In explaining what the archaeologist can reliably deduce about past societies from the study of bones and other human remains, Dr. Tony Waldron carefully avoids over-technical jargon. He covers the subject under the three headings of Life, Death, and Disease. He explains first that bones give us information about age, sex, height, weight, working life, and the demography of a society. We also learn of the causes of death—whether natural or intentional—and the evidence for a whole range of diseases—from aching joints and teeth to infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and syphilis.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:17 -0400)

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