Jessica Osborne

Global Change Fellow Alumna | Anthropology | North Carolina State University

2012 - 2013 Global Change Fellow

Where Are They Now?

Jessica is raising a family full-time.

Statement of purpose:

In general, my area of academic interest involves the field of bioarchaeology. Specifically, I am interested in the expression of mortuary behaviors from a cross-cultural perspective. The way a population or a society treats their deceased can provide information and understanding about specific social populations. Especially in archaeological settings, analysis of mortuary behaviors can illustrate social conditions that are otherwise unobservable. Analysis of mortuary techniques has the potential to illustrate socioeconomic differences, health status and nutritional levels, phases of economic disparity or hardship, and even local or regional ecological and environmental conditions associated with specific populations. It is this representation of the local environment, within a mortuary context, that I am particularly interested in investigating. My primary interest lies in trying to decipher how the local environment influences the development of a specific pattern of mortuary behavior. In addition to understanding how the local environment influences the conditions of burials, I am also interested in discovering how the changing of environments over time, in a specific geographical region, can be gleaned from the analysis of mortuary behaviors.

Description of research:

The proposed research project addresses the SECSC Mission and the SECSC Draft Science Plan Science Theme 6 Task 1. The principal idea is that by using a temporal and comparative perspective, it is possible to link changes or differences in environmental conditions with the development of specific mortuary and other related behaviors. Specifically, this study focuses on the mortuary analysis of past populations from the Caribbean islands using Carriacou and Barbados (southern West Indies) as the primary case studies. Analysis will be performed primarily on a skeletal collection excavated from the island of Carriacou in 2011 and possibly others from Barbados. These data, and subsequent analysis of mortuary behaviors, will then be compared to the mortuary behaviors of other populations situated in the Caribbean. These analyses will also be accompanied by a study of the changing climatic conditions in the Caribbean during the Late Holocene to examine whether any changes in cultural behavior as it relates to interment and other uses of space in prehistoric villages is related to social and/or climatic differences that developed during the Ceramic Age (ca. 500 BC – AD 1400). The purpose of this study is to determine how these mortuary behaviors changed between geographic locations and time periods, in addition to how they are influenced by local changes in climate as inferred through various lines of skeletal and environmental evidence.

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