This volume raises central theoretical issues regarding behavioural reconstruction in human osteological research. Because behavioural reconstructions have become increasingly common, especially within paleopathology, it is time to review the scientific basis for such an approach. For example, osteological scenarios seeking to link the onset of such skeletal conditions as osteoarthritis, dental disease, and trauma with specific behaviours in past populations are critically examined. Questions are also raised as to the scientific rigor of such hypotheses, the ethnohistorical (or other) evidence used to support them and, ultimately, the soundness of such claims. In addition, commentary is included that broadens the scope to include anthropology and explains the utility (and limitations) of behavioural reconstructions in paleoanthropology and the biocultural perspective as it is used in contemporary anthropology.
Robert Jurmain is a professor of anthropology at San Jose State University in California, USA.