August 13, 2015

This fortnight at Forbes: Icelandic and Viking families, sacrificed babies at Teotihuacan, and DNA from the 'Chinese Pompeii'

Just four posts from me over the last two weeks, as I was on vacation in Iceland and am now gearing up for classes to start.  Syllabi don't write themselves!

Before the links, though, I wanted to mention a couple things:

  • I'm up to 50 posts at Forbes, which means over the course of the summer, I wrote nearly 50,000 words and got over 1 million pageviews.  Add to that the three articles I submitted to journals, and it was a very productive summer!  Posts will slow as I return to full-time teaching, but you can expect around 6-8 posts a month.  I'll do these wrap-ups every two weeks now.
  • I would like to encourage you all to start commenting on these posts at Forbes.  (This requires you to sign up for a free account.)  I'd kind of assumed, since people comment here at Powered by Osteons on many posts, that I would see that sort of engagement happen at Forbes.  But I haven't.  So when a colleague started a dialogue on Facebook about a complaint he had on my coverage of the "Chinese Pompeii" post, I encouraged him to bring it over to Forbes to start an open discussion there (and he did). I see that my posts get comments on Facebook groups like PastHorizons and The Archaeological Conservancy, and those threads are often quite interesting.  It'd be great if more people would be willing to have these back-and-forth engagements at Forbes where, so far, there aren't any comment-trolls. Bringing scholarly and even interested-amateur discussion into a fully public forum would demonstrate how the production of knowledge works in science.  Anyway, please consider commenting, posting info from a related article, etc. at Forbes.
Without further ado, here are your fortnightly links...
  • Archaeologists find Viking families among skeletons in northern Iceland. I wrote these two Iceland posts since I was vacationing there and got interested in their bioarchaeology.  So I got in touch with Hildur Gestsdóttir about her excavation of a family farmstead in northeastern Iceland.  She had a fascinating take on the bioarchaeology of the family, which this post touches on.
  • DNA reveals that it was not the mother protecting this child in the 'Asian Pompeii'.  This site is kind of old news, so I was surprised when a bunch of photos started circulating. And then the Daily Mail started calling it "mum-and-son" and I knew I had to see if there was DNA data telling the child's sex.  From there, I found a 2007 paper on the DNA of all the skeletons from this mudslide-covered-site and noticed that one of the woman-child pairs did not share a biological connection.  I wrote this up but, as you can see from the comments, one of my colleagues took issue with my claim that these were not mother-child.  He rightly points out that we simply don't know that; they may not be biologically related, but neither are adopted parents-children.  That doesn't mean they're not mother-child.  Anyway, his comment is great because it shows that, even when I can add a new dimension to a mass media news story, I don't always add all possible dimensions.  More anthropologists should start commenting, to give readers a fuller picture.
Next week... no one expects the Spanish Inquisition!


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