Conférence de bioarchéologie 讲座:生物考古学

The lecture first explained that “bioarchaeologists” are physical anthropologists who study human skeletons from archaeological sites. The training to become a bioarchaeologist involves learning all the bones of the human skeleton, even when they’re broken into small pieces. The field is closely related to forensics and paleoanthropology. Also, the focus of the field is somewhat different in China and America: in China many anthropologists study race and craniometry to understand the relationships between groups and their history; in America most bioarchaeologists study how ancient people lived: their food, their diseases, and their life expectancy (for example, the beginning of agriculture, and how it impacted people’s health and diet).

该讲座首先介绍“生物考古学家”是研究考古遗址出土人骨的体质人类学家。学生如果想成为一个生物考古学家,他们需要先学习人类骨骼,即使它们破碎成小块。该领域与古人类学有密切的关系。同时,在中国和美国该领域的侧重点有所不同:中国许多人类学家研究种族和颅骨测量进而了解群体和历史之间的关系;美国研究古人的生活,比如他们的食物、他们的疾病及平均寿命(例如农业起源如何影响人的健康和饮食)。

Bioarchaeologists are both scientists and social scientists: we need to understand biology and medicine, but the reason we are not only biologists is because we also look at the archaeological data to interpret our results. We want to say “what significance does this diagnosis have” – that’s what makes us anthropologists.

生物考古学家既是科学家,又是社会科学家:我们需要了解生物学和医学,但我们不仅是生物学家,因为我们也观察考古资料。我们想问“这个诊断有什么意义”——这说明我们是人类学家。

Sometimes we work in the field on excavations, which is always the first step in our research. The second step is analysis in the lab – sometimes we start this part after the excavation is finished.

有时我们在野外进行发掘,这是我们研究的第一步。第二步是在实验室进行分析;有时我们在发掘完成后才开始这一步。

From the bones, we can estimate the sex of an individual. This is about 90% accurate with the pelvis, 80-90% accurate with the skull, and using best is both. It’s not possible to estimate the sex of children from the skeleton. We say “estimation” and not “determination” because we can never be 100% sure, unless we have DNA. Even with DNA, we cannot say what ancient people’s beliefs and attitudes were towards sex and the roles of different genders in society.

通过观察骨骼,我们可以判断一个人的性别。如果有盆骨,准确度是90%;有颅骨,准确度是80-90%;同时观察两部分是最好的办法。从骨骼来判断儿童的性别是不可能的。我们说“判断”而不是“确定”,因为我们永远不能100%确定,除非有DNA。即使用DNA,我们也不能确定古代人对性别的看法和态度以及不同性别在社会中的作用。

The lecture also described some of the many methods for estimating age, including using the pubic symphyseal face, the iliac auricular surface, and sternal ends of ribs. There are also histological methods, such as using the microscopic rings of cementum on the roots of teeth, like tree rings. Age estimation is easier to do for children because they grow at a regular rate, while adults age at different rates. Especially the eruption of teeth is the same for most children.

讲座还介绍了一些方法来判断年龄,包括使用耻骨联合面、髂骨耳状面与肋骨胸骨端。也有组织学方法,如使用牙根上牙骨质的微观环,像树的年轮。对孩子来说更容易判断年龄,因为孩子长得有规律,特别是牙齿萌出的时间, 大多数的孩子都是一样的。但成人以不同的速度衰退。

Teeth are a very important subject of study for bioarchaeologists and physical anthropologists. We can study tooth form and enamel thickness to figure out the diet and relationships of ancient hominin species. Teeth are also unique to each person, like fingerprints, and can be used to identify dead bodies. They are the hardest tissue in the human body, and are sometimes the best-preserved part of a body in an archaeological context, so we often use them to study a person’s diet and health.

牙齿是生物考古学家和体质人类学家研究的一个非常重要的课题。我们可以通过研究齿形和牙釉质厚度计算出古人类的饮食和物种之间的关系。牙齿对每个人来说都是独一无二的,就像指纹一样,可以用来识别个体。它们是人体中最坚硬的组织,有时是考古学中保存最完整的部分,所以我们经常用它们来研究一个人的饮食和健康。

The lecture briefly described the field of paleopathology. In paleopathology, we can study infectious diseases, metabolic diseases (nutritional deficiencies and genetic diseases), arthritis, growth and development, and trauma. In fact, very few diseases affect the bone, and not all cases of the diseases that do affect bone will have time to affect the bone.

讲座简要介绍了古病理学。我们可以用古病理学研究传染病、代谢性疾病(包括营养缺乏和遗传性疾病)、关节炎、生长发育和创伤。事实上,很少有疾病会影响骨骼,而且并不是所有影响骨骼的疾病都会有时间影响骨骼。

It’s important to remember the limitations of paleopathology. We can’t look at a cemetery where 15% of the population had TB and conclude that 15% of the population had TB. It could be that 80% had TB, but only the strongest people survived into middle age and developed lesions, while the rest died young and had no skeletal lesions. Also, it’s important in all sciences to separate description from interpretation. So, in paleopathology, we first describe the appearance and location of lesions, and once the description is complete, we can try to do a differential diagnosis and identify the lesions.

讨论古病理学的局限性是很重要的。如果一座墓地里15%的人口患有肺结核,我们不能因此断定真有15%的人患有肺结核。可能有80%的人患有肺结核,但只有最强壮的人能存活到中年并发生病变,而其余的人死亡时很年轻,没有骨骼损伤。另外,区分描述和解释在所有科学中都很重要。所以,在古病理学中,我们首先要描述病变的外观和位置,一旦描述完整了,我们才能做病变的鉴别诊断。

When examining trauma, it’s important to distinguish between antemortem, perimortem, and postmortem damage to the bone. Sometimes trauma is a result of violence, sometimes it is an accident, and sometimes it is surgical (as in amputations and trepanations).

当检查创伤时,区分生前、死时和死后的损伤很重要。有时,损伤是暴力所引起的,有时是意外引起的,有时是手术的结果(比如截肢和开颅术)。

Finally, there are some newer, microscopic methods of studying bioarchaeology. These include using stable isotopes to reconstruct diet and migration, using histological methods to study growth, and using aDNA to study humans and identify pathogens.

最后,有一些新的古病理研究方法。这些措施包括使用稳定同位素来重建饮食和迁徙、用组织学方法来研究生长过程、利用古DNA来研究人类并鉴定病原菌。

One area of research in bioarchaeology that isn’t yet very big in China is the study of “identity.” From an anthropological point of view, identity is a very complicated phenomenon. It includes a person’s individual, gender, cultural, ethnic, racial, linguistic, and national identity. Fundamentally, it’s how others see us and how we see ourselves. Our identity and experiences can be reflected in our bodies, in our skeletons. A clear example is tattoos – your body says to other people “this is who I am”; ancient times people had similar practices, not just tattoos but also tooth ablation (in China) and cranial modification (in the ancient Andes mountains and parts of modern Africa). People who experience oppression also have poorer health, and this is a reflection of their identity and life experience.

在中国还有一个没有很多人研究的生物考古学课题,即研究“身份”的方法。人类学领域里的“身份“是一个非常复杂的概念。它包括个人的、性别的、文化的、民族的、种族的、语言的和民族的身份。它基本是指他人如何看待个人以及个人如何看待自己。我们的身份和经验有时会反映在我们的身体、骨骼上。一个明显的例子是纹身:用身体对别人说你是谁。古代人也有类似的传统,不只是纹身还有拔牙(在中国)和颅骨变形(在古代安第斯山脉和现代非洲的一些地方)。遭受压迫的人也有较差的健康状况,这反映了他们的身份和生活。

The lecture then discussed craniometry. This is a well-developed area of research in China, which studies the shape of skulls to figure out how different ancient and modern groups are related. However, in the West, craniometry sometimes has a negative association with racism. In the 19th century, Western scientists tried to use craniometry to show that rich, white men were superior to other groups of people. They used science as a political weapon. Of course, we now know that their theories were wrong. Now we don’t study skull shape to figure out which race is superior to which race; this is not science because one race is not superior to another. Instead, we study cranial shape to find genetic relationships between groups. There are also better tools today for measuring skulls and better statistics for representing the relationships between groups.

然后,讲座讨论了颅骨测量学。这种方法在中国很发达,通过研究头骨的形状来找出古代的不同人群和现代人群的关系。然而,在西方,颅骨测量学有时被看做与种族主义有关系。在十九世纪,西方的科学家们试图用测量学证明有钱的白种人优于其他人种。他们把科学当作政治武器。当然,我们现在知道他们的理论是不对的。现在我们不用头骨的形状来判断某一种族优于其他种族;这不是科学,因为一个种族并不优于另一个种族。相反,我们研究颅骨形状来发现组间的遗传关系。今天也有更好的工具来测量颅骨和更好的统计数据来代表群体间的关系。

Ethics in bioarchaeology is also a big question in America today. For instance, there are Indian people who have been oppressed by white people and the American government. Before, anthropologists could dig up Indians’ ancestors, even if they didn’t agree. However, for the last twenty years there has been a law saying that under many circumstances, the Indian tribes have the right to decide what is done with their ancestors’ remains. Some tribes allow the anthropologists to continue studying the skeletons (as long as they don’t do destructive analysis), and many skeletons are repatriated to the tribes and reburied. I think this is a good thing, and most American archaeologists think this is a good thing, because in the past anthropologists didn’t respect Indians’ rights, and but now the tribes have the right to decide. Also, now the relationships between archaeologists and Indian tribes is better, so there are more opportunities to cooperate with the tribes to learn about their ancestors’ way of life.

美国生物考古学家也常常考虑道德问题。例如,印第安人受到白人和美国政府的压迫。以前,人类学家可以挖出印第安人的祖先,即使他们不同意。然而,在过去的二十年里,有一项法律规定说 ,在许多情况下,印第安部落有权决定他们祖先的遗骸将如何处理。有些部落允许人类学家继续研究骨架(只要他们不做破坏性分析),而许多骨架被遣返回部落、重新埋葬。我认为这是一件好事。大多数美国考古学家认为这是一件好事,因为过去人类学家不尊重印第安人的权利,但现在他们有权决定了。而且,现在考古学家和印第安人部落之间的关系更好了,所以现在有更多的机会与部落合作,了解他们祖先的生活方式。

Finally, the lecture described two case studies. First, Richard III was a king of England: he was the last English king to die in battle, in 1485. He is also one of the most hated kings in English history. Many people believe he killed his nephews to become kings. Shakespeare also wrote a play about him, and described him as a cunning and evil man, with a hunchback.

最后,讲座介绍了两个研究案例。首先,理查德三世是英国国王:他死于1485年,是最后一个在战斗中死去的英国国王。他也是英国历史上最受人憎恨的国王之一。很多人认为他杀了他的侄子成为国王。莎士比亚还写了一部关于他的戏剧,将他描述为一个狡猾、邪恶的人,还是一个驼背。

After Richard was killed in battle, he was paraded naked through the streets and his corpse was mutilated. No one knew where he was buried; some people believed his body was thrown in the river, but others thought he was buried in a church yard. Finally, in 2012, archaeologists went to look for his body in the ancient church yard. Within two weeks, they found a skeleton that might be his.

理查德在战斗中阵亡后,被赤身裸体地游街示众,尸体被肢解。没有人知道他被埋在什么地方,有些人认为他的尸体被扔进河里,但其他人认为他被埋在教堂的院子里。最后,,考古学家们于2012年在古老的教堂院子里寻找他的尸体。两周内,他们发现了一具可能是他的骨骼。

The bioarchaeologists used many different methods to figure out if the body belonged to Richard III. He was a male of about the right age, and C14 analysis said that he died around the same time as Richard. They also found parasite eggs in the soil around his abdomen, which meant he ate a lot of meat and fish, and so was probably rich. The stable isotopes in his bones also showed that he ate a lot of protein and seafood. They did a 3D reconstruction of his face, which looked a bit like Richard. Finally, they did aDNA analysis, and found that he was indeed related to Richard III’s descendants. The examination of the skeleton also showed that he was probably Richard III. The skeleton had scoliosis, so he did have spine problems. He also had 11 perimortem blade injuries, including in places that would have been covered by his armor, so they were probably inflicted after he died and was paraded naked through the city. Finally, in 2015, he was reburied as a king.

生物考古学家用过许多不同的方法来判断该骨骼是否为理查德三世。骨骼的年龄与理查德三世相符,碳十四分析表明,他和理查德死于同一时间。学者也在他腹部周围的土壤中发现了寄生虫卵,这意味着他吃了很多肉和鱼,所以他可能很富有。他骨骼中的稳定同位素也表明他吃了大量的蛋白质和海鲜。学者对他的面部进行三维复原,结果看起来有点像理查德。最后, DNA分析发现骨骼确实跟理查德三世的后裔有关。对骨骼的检查也显示他可能是理查德三世。骨骼的脊柱侧弯,所以理查德确实有脊柱问题。骨骼还受了11次伤,其中有一些受伤的地方应该被他的盔甲所覆盖,所以它们应该是在他死后赤裸时造成的。最后,他于2015年以国王礼下葬。

More information on this case on : http://www.le.ac.uk/richardiii/science.html

对理查德三世的案例感兴趣,可以看这个网页:http://www.le.ac.uk/richardiii/science.html

The second case study discussed in the lecture was about Liz Berger’s own research into foot binding. At a Ming Dynasty cemetery in Shaanxi, she found that some women had very small metatarsals and phalanges. However, the tarsal bones were roughly normal size. Only the joint surfaces had a different size. This is very different from women in the Qing Dynasty, whose tarsal bones were very affected by foot binding. This is probably because the method of binding the feet was different in different times and places within China. It will be interesting in the future to compare skeletons from different parts of China to see how foot binding changed through time and how it affected women’s lives and bodies.

讲座中讨论的第二个案例是关于贝丽姿老师对缠足的研究。在陕西明代的一座墓地,她发现一些妇女有非常小的跖骨和趾骨。然而,跗骨大体上是正常大小。只有关节表面有不同的尺寸。这与清代妇女的脚有很大的不同:缠足给清代跗骨带来的影响很大。这可能是因为缠足在中国不同时代和不同地点有不同的方法。将来,贝老师希望能比较中国不同地方的缠足、说明各种缠足如何影响妇女的生活和身体。

Some bioarchaeologists in action in the field (hands of Zhou Yawei) 生物考古学就工作过程中
This is Richard III 这是理查德三世 (source: http://www.le.ac.uk/richardiii/science/osteology-3-analysing.html)

Elizabeth Berger 贝丽姿


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