Katy Meyers is an anthropology grad student at Michigan State University. In the most current post on her blog,Bones Don’t Lie, she reviews a study that “examines funerary practices of prehistoric Spain in order to determine what portions of the population were buried in megalithic monuments.”
Miamisburg Mound. From a painting by Charles Sullivan, c. 1830. Ohio Memory image AL02905.
The study is relevant to ancient Ohio because we deal with the same issues when trying to understand who is buried in the mounds of the Adena and Hopewell cultures. Clearly, there were more people living during the Woodland period than are buried in the mounds. So the first question we ask is — Are the people buried in the mounds a representative sample of the population, or were they more likely to be buried in a mound if they were a particular sex, age, or social status?
The authors of the study of Spanish megaliths “found a number of anomalies when comparing the age groups of people from the megalithic monuments to what the expected age at death would be for a population in this period.” Such anomalies can be clues to the cultural preferences of the ancient communities that buried their honored dead in these special cemeteries, but they also can have other explanations.
Check out Myers’ blog post to get a sense of just how hard it is answer questions about ancient lives — even when the bones don’t lie.