SAP 2017 Conference by Alexandra B.

Société d’Anthropologie de Paris, the annual conference 2017 took place in Paris.

It was summarized by our member Alexandra Boucherie (ULB), who also presented a poster on her work on Danish battle-related mass grave (her Master’s dissertation at Bournemouth University). Our member Caroline Polet (RBINS) gave a talk on the analysis of human skeletal remains from Kindoki, Congo.

A few weeks ago, two of our BOAPAS-members, Alexandra Boucherie and Caroline Polet, participated in the annual conference of the Société d’Anthropologie de Paris. Here is Alexandra’s summary of her two days’ attendance in Paris:

This year, the meeting was organized between the 24th -26th January 2017 at the National Institute of Art History (INHA) in Paris. As a current member, I attended the symposium on day 1 and 2. The colloquium was organized around three themes as usual, covering several aspects of researches in biological anthropology:

  1. Breaking News
  2. Biological Anthropology of the African Continent: From the First Hominines to Actual Populations
  3. Fossils: From Morphology to Potential Functions

The first day of the conference was dedicated to the “Breaking news” theme with various presentations dealing with recent studies in paleogenetics, 3D reconstruction and archaeo-anthropology.

For instance, the first podium presentation was focused on the re-evaluation of the biological and material data coming from the well-known Téviec necropolis (Quiberon, France, Mesolithic period).

Next, a PhD-student from Aix-en-Provence University (A. Lattard), presented the results of excavations executed on the Gallo-roman site of Richeaume (Bouches-du-Rhône, France), which includes both a villa (1st-6th centuries) and a necropolis (1st-2nd centuries). It was interesting to see how a detailed anthropological analysis of remains of both urns and cremation pyres, can help us to understand funerary practices by biological profiling and reassembling.

There was also a presentation on one of my research topics: a mass grave linked to a mortality crisis. Since 2008, five mass graves have been unearthed in Chartres, on the Gallo-roman sanctuary of Saint-Martin-du-Val (Eure, France, 270-280 AD). Excavations were carried out by the Service d’Archéologie de la Ville de Chartres, and anthropological re-examination was done by G. Sachau-Carcel (Montpellier University). The hypothesis of an epidemic event was suggested by the analysis of two mass graves, and by the absence of trauma or any evidence of famine. More analyses, such as a-DNA and spatial distribution of the remains through GIS, need to be applied on the other mass graves to confirm this hypothesis.

A team from the National Natural History Museum of Paris (dir: P. Sellier) presented results of current excavations on a Neolithic funerary area (the cemetery of Kadruka 23, c. 4500 BC) in Sudan. From an archaeo-thanatological approach, anthropologists could highlight some indications on deposition/burial practices, such as potential mummification and body wrapping.

I was glad to attend a talk by Senior Lecturer K. Gerdau-Radonic, from Bournemouth University, since I undertook my second Master’s Degree in this university. She presented the results of a Master’s dissertation of one of my classmates, focusing on the interpretation of Iron Age pit burials in Dorset (300 BC). She revealed that the selection of these pits did not happen from an opportunist approach, but that it was a deliberate funerary practice.

Further communications involved micro-structural analyses of teeth during Pleistocene and Holocene transition, and paleogenetic studies of Native Americans and Neolithic remains.

Finally, day 1 ended with poster presentations in the atrium. I presented a poster on a Danish battle-related mass grave (1300-1350 AD) [available on ResearchGate], which was the topic of my Master’s dissertation at Bournemouth University. This collection is curated at the Forensic Medicine Institute of Copenhagen. My study included biological profiling of the individuals and detailed examination of injuries, by both macroscopic and microscopic analyses. It was really enriching to discuss these results with various people/experts/specialists. A publication of my research in an international journal is scheduled in 2017.

On day 2, presentations were devoted to the second theme “Biological Anthropology of the African Continent: From the First Hominines to Actual Populations”. During the first part of the morning, researchers talked about health studies (obesity, nutrition, weaning) that were carried out on contemporary populations in Africa (Senegal and Ivory Coast).

Next, we were delighted to welcome guest speaker R. Foley from Cambridge University. He talked about his recent research on how geography in Africa had influenced human evolution, which he calls the ‘Afroexit’.

In the afternoon, communications focused on archaeo-anthropological studies performed in Africa on different assemblages from the Later Stone Age to the 18th century. M. Leroy (Montpellier University), for instance, introduced us to preliminary results from the ongoing excavation of the Kom Abu Billou Roman necropolis (Egypt, 1st century AD).

This presentation was followed by, Y. Gleize (INRAP), who talked about the evolution of the cemetery of Qedemt (Lalibela, Ethiopia) from the 11th to the 18th century. He emphasized how Christianisation could be deduced from the analysis of the in-situ funerary practices. These excavations will be presented on Arte’s TV program “Enquêtes archéologiques” in early February.

Finally, Caroline Polet, from the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, and a BOAPAS-member, presented an analysis of human skeletal remains that were recovered in Kindoki (Democratic Republic of Congo, 18th century AD), as part of the KongoKing ERC project.

Unprecedented cases of DISH were observed on two female individuals from an archaeological population in Africa. This specific paleopathology might be linked to their high-social status and rich diet.

The last day involved the third theme “Fossils: From Morphology to Potential Functions”, and included a lecture by Isabelle De Groote (Liverpool John Moores University and a BOAPAS-member), entitled ‘One Million Years of Humans in Britain’.

More papers were presented in the “Breaking news” theme with communications on diverse topics such as ‘Occupation density and perturbations of dental growth in Çatalhöyük’ (E. Bocaege), ‘Plague: a selective disease? New evidences from biological anthropology’ (S. Kacki), ‘Methods for estimating body weight from the skeleton: why we should avoid it to estimate an individual ponderal mass?’ (A. Lacoste-Janson).

If you are interested to join next year, the SAP conference will be organized on January 2018 in Poitiers.

More information will be announced later on:

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