… Hmm I didn’t actually write that much in 2016 compared to previous years! Regardless it is now 2017 (happy new year folks) and I think a little round-up post of the entries that I wrote, or helped to edit, for 2016 is in order. This post is inspired by my reading of the round-up entries by Jess Beck, who blogs over at Bone Broke, and by Zachary Cofran, who blogs at Lawnchair Anthropology. I recommend that you check out both their entries for haunting film posters and wonderful animal photographs (but stay for the fossils and osteology goodness!). I digress, so let’s get this round-up rolling. Firstly we’ll have a little look into the statistics for the year in order to see where the website stands in comparison to previous years on this site.
Site Statistics: Meaningful or Merely Visiting?
The total number of site views for 2016 was 227,920 compared to 2015’s 253,985, whilst the total number of site visits for 2016 totaled out at 167,317, comparable to 2015’s 182,605. Not bad at all considering I use the site as a central focus (i.e. there is no associated Twitter or Facebook account for the blog, so the blog itself is the central output for posts, information, etc.). The statistics are comparable for previous years until 2012, when WordPress implemented the distinction between views and visitor, in order to establish clicks per view I believe. So, for example, the statistic for views in 2012 was 536,562 whilst visitors only totaled 20,955 as a result of the distinction in views/visits coming into effect towards the end of the year.
The total number of entries produced for 2016 was 22, a blog low for the site since its inception (for example, 2014 saw 67 entries posted and 2013 54 entries posted, although it is a follow on trend from 2015 where only 25 posts were produced and posted). A total of 12 posts remain in varying states of drafting, and honestly I doubt that at least two of them will be posted in any format. The top posts for views last year were, as it always is, the home page/archives to the site. The next nine top posts are related to the Skeletal Series of posts where each section of the human skeleton is introduced and discussed from a bioarchaeological perspective. Again, there are no great surprises here; indeed this is actually the main aim of the blog itself and it helps support my intention behind it! 2016 however saw the production of no Skeletal Series entries (though check out the Skeletal Series Human Osteology Glossary from December 2015), this is something I hope to rectify in 2017 by focusing on how bioarchaeologists, or human osteologists, assess skeletal remains in order to assign the biological sex and age for individuals.
So, are statistics useful?
I believe so, generally speaking, as they give me a good indication of what the individuals who visit the site want to read, what they use the site for, and how they navigate the site more generally. Of course I’ve largely circumnavigated these wants with posts on literary topics of interest or books mentions instead this year!
A Few of My Favourite Posts
The year started with a fairly personal post on A Personal Anthropology of Driving, wherein I discuss the impact that driving has had on my life and I present brief thoughts on socio-cultural issues surrounding the car itself and the environment in which it drives by taking a whistle-stop tour of the world. The entry let me write loosely on my thoughts and demonstrate that anthropology really can be found all around us, that there is no strict division between the person and the social. It is a post I very much enjoyed writing, going from the personal osteological endeavors expected when one has a bone disease that has led to multiple fractures and (planned and unplanned) surgical interventions to the great freedom that driving a car can bring, so much so that across much of the world today it is considered a coming-of-age rite – indeed, it is up there with the biological terror of becoming an awkward adolescent!
One of my most treasured posts was Bones of Contention: A Personal Reflection on Animal Relations, which had a lot of reflective and creative similarities with the Personal Anthropology of Driving post. I was able to combine my love of poetic writing with the tangible grain of my film photography, as well as to talk about the adorable three chickens that make their home in the back garden. I also managed to sneak some zooarchaeology into the post as a through-line technique that helped to anchor the post with regards to human-animal relationships.
For guest posts and interviews in 2016 I was lucky enough to be able to host a discussion between artists Natalie Marr, David Ashley Pearson and myself as we debated their short film Visitor, which has personal ramifications for each of us as we lost a close mutual friend of ours in 2015. The interview discusses a number of topics, including the nature of grief, space and the influence of certain artists and film makers in the production of Visitor. The film is pretty damn beautiful and is currently in a final edit, the trailer can be found on the link above and I recommend watching it.
The site also played host to a tantalizing guest post on artificial cranial deformation in the Great Migration Period in Europe by Maja Miljević. In it Maja introduces the theory behind the aims of artificial cranial deformation, the methods and types of cranial deformation, and the context for the migration within Central Europe, presenting illuminating case studies on an area I had not read about or researched before. In the third, and final, guest post of the year Jennifer Crangle and Greer Dewdney presented the launch of the Rothwell Charnel Chapel project website, backed by the University of Sheffield. I’ve written about the Rothwell Charnel Chapple a number of times now for this blog, helping to promote the research carried out by my friend Jennifer Crangle as she promotes the importance of this rare English medieval site and involves the local community and members of the public. I’ve been down to Rothwell to help participate in an open day, as well as helping to promote the project on this site and I recommend you give the site a visit and check it out!
As always, I heartily welcome guest post entries from around the world on a whole range of subjects related to bioarchaeology, human osteology, and archaeology more generally. I also welcome discussion posts and interviews, where I act as the interviewer helping to ask questions and guide the discussion as necessary. If you feel that this may be of interest please do read my Guest Post page for previous entries, see the areas that I am interested in and read through the advice post. Most importantly, please feel free to get in touch either by dropping a comment below or by emailing me using the address on the About Me page.
An important update to one previous post was to highlight the sheer range of postgraduate masters degrees (either taught or research-based) available in bioarchaeology or human osteology related topics on offer in the United Kingdom, alongside the rising cost of the courses themselves. The post also raised the spectre of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union and the recent changes made in a government White Paper for the direction of higher education within the country. Expect a lot of change within the education sector over the next five to ten years, and to the economy of the United Kingdom more generally. As always I console any students, or interested individuals, who want to pursue a masters focused on the analysis of human skeletal remains, from archaeological contexts, to think of what they want from the course; what research you hope to conduct; what research is conducted at the department itself; what resources are available to the student; what projects do the department carry out and, finally, who the course leaders are and their interests. I always recommend a visit to the department, if you can, to get a feel for the course and for the location of the university itself. Furthermore, always try to think of the next step after the masters itself: where do you want this degree to get you to and how will it help on the way?
I finally wrote up a conference review from 2014! The Day of the Dead, a three-day conference held at Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland, in October 2014, was a truly fantastic event which mixed human osteology and funerary archaeology to provide an engaging, informative and vital series of presentations on a wide range of topics. In the review I also managed to grab a quick few words from famed bioarchaeological researcher Christopher Knüsel, who helped lead a workshop on the archaeothanatology method of interpreting the burial position of the body in-situ. I also blogged about the upcoming conference entitled Skeletons, Stories and Social Bodies that is to be held at the University of Southampton in March 2017. Registration for that conference is still open at the normal rates, so book your tickets now!
Last year also continued a strong trend on this blog – I love reading and I am not afraid to tell you the readers just what I’ve been reading. From non-fiction that covers the impact of momentous 20th century events in Russia and the USSR to the Bioarchaeology of Socio-Sexual Lives and Fractures and Spanish novelists, I’ve covered a lot of ground sparingly! Reading is fundamental to understanding the world around you, but also to escape the world around you. It can give you a much deeper understand of the history of the various countries and regions of the world, as well as offering profound socio-political background knowledge. I love it and I’d love to hear what bioarchaeological or archaeological textbooks you have been reading and where you have drawn your influences from.
Alongside my recommendations of books to read, I also discussed the pros and cons of academic publishing, the Open Access movement and the horrors of trying to access articles and book reviews, with a particular focus on the Sci-Hub, Academia and ResearchGate websites. The post itself didn’t get any love from the Sci-Hub founder, or associate perhaps, but I was trying to present a balanced viewpoint of the options available to the student, researcher and layman of accessing academic research. Clearly I did not succeed! The year also saw a post by perennial blog favourite Stuart Rathbone’s new collection of archaeological work, entitled Archaeological Boundaries: Discussions, Experiments, and Unprovoked Attacks. The post contains a first for this blog – a video review of the volume produced by Stuart himself for publicizing the volume, along with a few questions asked by yours truly. The volume is published by another These Bones of Mine favourite Robert M. Chapple, whose excellent blog on Irish archaeology can be found here.
Even better I became a published bioarchaeological author in 2016! The publication of New Developments in the Bioarchaeology of Care: Further Case Studies and Expanded Theory, edited by Lorna Tilley and Alecia Shrenk and published by Springer in September 2016, saw my chapter published in a volume which itself was the outcome of a session on Bioarchaeology of Care theory and methodology at the 2015 Society for American Archaeology annual conference, which took place in San Francisco, USA. My chapter takes a look at the public response, both online and in the traditional and digital media, to the case studies produced by Lorna Tilley as a part of her PhD research on identifying instances of care-provision given to disabled individuals in prehistoric contexts. My chapter also presents a few best practice suggestions for engaging and communicating to the public the importance of bioarchaeological research. I cannot tell you what it means to have a bioarchaeological book with my name in it, what a thrill! You can read my chapter from the volume here.
I re-wrote the 2002 song Lose Yourself, which is by the rapper Eminem for the 8 Mile soundtrack, and re-titled it Lose Yourself (In Mud) to include observations from an archaeological viewpoint. It is also lovingly annotated with a few choice remarks. Enjoy!