The Ultimate Bioarchaelogy Quiz

By: Nathan Chandler

The Ultimate Bioarchaelogy Quiz
Image: AFP/Getty Images

About This Quiz

This fascinating subfield of anthropology is filled with bones, and the people who practice it are sort of like real-life Indiana Joneses. Curious yet?
Why is it difficult to define the term bioarchaeology with perfect accuracy?
It's such a complex field.
Various countries use different words to describe the work that bioarchaeologists do.
It's all semantics. The term covers a whole subfield of studies that leverages many different academic disciplines, so a perfect description is elusive.
Scientists argue about what every branch of their studies should be called.

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Who coined the term bioarchaeology?
Jane Ellen Buikstra
John Douglas
John Grahame Douglas Clark
He's sort of the Clark Kent of bioarchaeology -- by inventing this term, Clark opened researchers' minds to a more holistic view of archaeology.

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Bioarchaeologists often use cranial and pelvic bones to determine a person's what?
sex
Let's talk about it. Male and female anatomy is different at a skeletal level. Scientists take these differences into account when determining a person's sex.
DNA
steroid usage

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Why are bones vital to archaeological work?
They're easy to find.
Human flesh generally decomposes to a degree that it's not useful for scientific purposes, but bones are much hardier.
Haunted houses have nothing on ancient graveyards, which are full of old skeletons that survive long after flesh has decayed. Those bones hold the answers to many bioarchaeological questions.
They contain massive amounts of calcium, which provides all of the data researchers need to reconstruct past lives.

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A lot of bioarchaeology work is done in cold, dry regions of the world. How come?
These locations were filled with people long before wet, warm climates.
Scientists enjoy working in the harshest possible conditions.
Arid, frigid areas preserve human remains better for study purposes.
Perhaps a parka is in order? Cold, dry places can keep human remains remarkably preserved for centuries and provide a great environment for scientific study.

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Bones provide information about how much physical labor a person performed. What are common traits of a laborer's bones?
broken in many places
skinnier and more fragile
denser and stronger
Work those abs! People who performed a lot of hard, physical work show skeletal signs of stronger, bigger bones.

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What does DNA evidence help bioarchaeologists reconstruct?
dinosaurs
the Ice Man
the makeup and movement of a population
It's not a family tree -- it's a family forest! Bioarchaeologists can use DNA to trace the geographical wanderings of entire tribes and societies.

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Teeth that are full of cavities may point to evidence of what kind of diet?
a diet made up primarily of protein
a diet that contained a lot of carbohydrates
Do you have any vegetarian options? Caries, or cavities, are often caused by oral bacteria that help humans break down carbohydrates.
a diet that contained way too much candy and soda

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Mass spectrometers can vaporize samples of human remains. Why in the world would bioarchaeologists want to dissolve their finds?
to locate DNA fragments
to determine the sample's chemical composition
Bones are chemical wonderlands. Scientists try to determine their chemistry by any means possible, helping to reconstruct a person's diet and much more.
to find evidence of exposure to radiation

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NAGPRA is a funny-sounding acronym, but what does it stand for?
North American Graves and Patriotic Reconciliation Act
Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act
We all want just a little respect. Native Americans, in particular, emphasize respect for their ancestors' remains. That's what legislation like the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act is designed to do.
something really awful you don't want to know about

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In what year did the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization set out to protect items of cultural heritage?
1970
Here's some legalese for you -- in 1970, UNESCO introduced a convention called a Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.
1980
1990

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Why do some scientists oppose NAGPRA?
They think it violates the Constitution of the United States.
Religion and government make fine friends, don't they? NAGPRA specifies religious terms in its legislation, which some scientists think bridges the constitutionally-required separation of church and state.
They will never again be allowed to study any artifacts tagged by NAGPRA claims.
They don't like being nagged.

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Bioarchaeologists belong to professional associations. Which of these is one of them?
the Association of Bioarchaeological Researchers
the Society for Native American Biological Studies
the American Association of Physical Anthropologists
Call them hard-core clubbers. Bioarchaeologists don't have their own specific association, but in keeping with their multidisciplinary perspectives, they belong to a lot of related ones, including those created for anthropologists.

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Who funds the work that bioarchaeologists carry out?
chemical corporations
Wall Street financiers
the National Geographic Society and similar organizations
Recessions and research don't mix, but devoted scientists can still find money through organizations that support their work.

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Bioarchaeologists have reputations, but the good kind. As scientists, what are they famous for?
being intellectually diverse but protective of their knowledge
being averse to high-tech, analytical methods
being open-minded and willing to share their information and ideas
Not even bioarchaeologists can do this much multitasking. Due, in part, to the fact that they have so many disciplines to review, these scientists are known to share a lot of information with each other in hopes of answering their questions.

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What's one of the most important aspects of bioarchaeology?
It relies solely on advanced technology.
It provides historical context for archaeological finds.
It's all about your perspective, and bioarchaeologists provide plenty of it, offering a holistic, contextual view of history instead of single theories.
It employs biological rules for excavation sites.

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Bioarchaeologists study a huge range of subjects. Which fields must these Renaissance men and women know a lot about?
human anatomy
mortuary studies
bone analysis
all of the above
You name it, they study it. Bioarchaeology requires scientists to master a broad range of facts and theories regarding ancient societies.

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In some countries, scientists might refer to bioarchaeology by a different name. Can you guess what it is?
histrobiological research
physical archaeology
biological anthropology
A name is just a name -- in Europe, for example, a researcher might call this area of study biological anthropology.

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Why do bioarchaeologists need a background in mortuary studies?
to understand every aspect of ancient grave sites, including burial rituals
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Every society has burial rituals, and mortuary studies help researchers understand these parts of a culture.
so they can file the correct excavation permits with the United States government
to avoid being grossed out by dead bodies

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How is the work that bioarchaeologists perform relevant to modern societies -- that is, to the rest of us?
It helps us understand more about who we are and where we came from.
Wherever you go, there you are. Maybe it's just human nature, but curiosity about our ancestors provides modern people with clues about our past -- and the future of our species, too.
It provides a lot of material for National Geographic articles.
It assists geneticists as they try to find a cure for common illnesses.

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