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Of Burials and Bones: Tales Told by the Dead

Val McKinley, Dr. Amanda Blackburn, and Jodi Schmidt University of Winnipeg and University of Manitoba

Quite simply stated, anthropology is the study of humans from past and present contexts. Anthropologists tend to be slow and methodical in their work, which belies the impression of instant resolution and interpretation left by popular television series like Bones or CSI. We definitely shrink away from the swashbuckling, pot-hunting antics of Indiana Jones. But the work is interesting, important and, with so many fictional representations as evidence, it captures the imagination.

Olympus has captured our imaginations. An understanding of burials and human remains relies heavily on what we know about the time and the place of their origin. Bioanthropologists and archaeologists tease out the details of an ancient person’s identity by analyzing bones and graves. Was the person male or female; young or old; short or tall; muscular or spindly; sick or healthy; rich or poor; natural death or…mayhem? In classical archaeology each individual’s biological story-line, or their osteo-biography, is interpreted within its historical context. Studying the art, architecture, literature and archives of the ancients allows us to interweave a richer story of the past. “Who were you?” we ask, and when we work meticulously, consider their living context, and are very patient, the bones answer us.

Find out more at our free, June 28 Olympus SeminarOf Burials and Bones: Tales Told by the Dead 

Val McKinley is an archaeologist and the Curator of the Anthropology Collections, University of Winnipeg.

Amanda Blackburn is a bioanthropologist and archaeologist. She teaches Anthropology at the University of Manitoba.

Jodi Schmidt is a bioanthropologist and archaeologist with the Anthropology Museum, University of Winnipeg.