Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences
Minutes of the CAAS 1424th Meeting
Wednesday, December 4, 2012
at New Haven Lawn Club
Lecture by Jaime Ullinger, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Quinnipiac — “Human Health, Agriculture, and Urbanization from an Evolutionary Perspectives.”
Hosted by Quinnipiack University, the meeting was opened by President Ernest Kohorn at 5:35 pm. A publication, one of the reasons for the initial launch of the Academy in 1799, is still an issue at the forefront for the Council. Members and guests were encouraged to purchase books, which can be obtained by calling the office and listings are available at the web site (www.yale.edu/caas/publications.html). He also encouraged members to encourage friends to join the Academy. Academy Vice President for Quinnipiac University, Hans Bergmann, then introduced the evening’s speaker, Jaime Ullinger, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Quinnipiac. A recent addition to the anthropology faculty, her field of concentration is bio-archeology, with a specialty of long-term research in the Middle East. The topic of the presentation was: Human Health, Agriculture, and Urbanization from an Evolutionary Perspectives.
Professor Ullinger explained how the study of bones helps to understand the life and culture of people. Her field work has centered on the Middle East and the majority of it at Bab edh-Dhra’, which is located in Jordan near the Dead Sea. On that site are burial grounds covering a period from about 3500 BC to 2000 BC. The collection of bones found from time periods within that range give evidence of the life and culture of those time periods. Humans started out as hunter/gatherers. Bone remnants show the progression of effects on society when agriculture is introduced. Evidence of various diseases such as arthritis and dental caries appear over time. The arthritis is attributed to the daily repetitive action associated with agriculture.
Professor Ullinger described three separate periods in the early Bronze Age. There is one very early layer with only burned remains of a possible community. In the cemetery excavation were hundreds of tombs but no evidence of a settlement remains. At about 3300 BC there is evidence of a small village with above-ground structures. At 3100 -2300 more evidence of structures appears, along with large public spaces. From 2300 to 2000 there is evidence of living outside the town walls and burial practice places bones below ground. Dental wear decreases and loss increases, as well as infections, over the whole period and there is evidence of barley, wheat, figs and olives in the diet. Activity patterns point to joint disease as there is increase in urban growth. Earlier group shows more degenerative joint disease possibly from time spent in kneeling position. Later groups may have been more specialized and in that period there is also fractures and evidence of trauma. The study of this 1500 year period at Bab edh-Dhra’ draws speculation regarding the evolution of communities and exposes difference problems through various stages as human development responds to its environments. To an audience question regarding the life span of these populations Professor Ullinger replied that since no complete skeletons were found, it is difficult to tell, but there is evidence of life up to age 50, along with high child mortality
The Academy is grateful to Professor Ullinger and Quinnipiac University for an informative presentation.
Birgitta Johnson, Recording Secretary