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Reading the BonesActivity, Biology, and Culture$
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Elizabeth Weiss

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780813054988

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813054988.001.0001

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(p.131) 7 Conclusions
Reading the Bones

Elizabeth Weiss

University Press of Florida

This chapter concludes with the major theme that ran through the previous chapters; how much of each of these skeletal activity reconstruction features are a result of environmental influences (i.e., activities) and how much of the variation in these features are a result of genes. Biological confounds, which are largely genetic, have been found in all of the skeletal features covered in the previous chapters. For example, evolutionary body type rules (i.e., Bergmann’s and Allen’s Rules) affect measures of cross-sectional geometries. Plus, age is known to increase entheseal change scores. Furthermore, twin studies have revealed hereditary etiologies for osteoarthritis and Schmorl’s nodes. Yet, not all of the variance is genetic and, thus, the question remains whether skeletal indicators of activity can still be used to reconstruct activity patterns. Methods that avoid circular reasoning and aim to use only skeletal features with predictive validity should be the ultimate goal for those studying skeletal remains. If skeletal indicators of activity cannot be used to reconstruct what people did in the past, then perhaps these skeletal features can help in other ways, such as improving age estimates or drawing better conclusions about biological relatedness.

Keywords:   age estimation, Allen’s rule, Bergmann’s rule, biological confounds, environmental influences, predictive validity, twin studies, biological relatedness

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