Saturday, February 19, 2011

Welcome to Southern Tier Biohistory

Welcome to the inaugural post for Southern Tier Biohistory.  My goal for this blog will be to create a nexus for information and research centering on an important subset of anthropological research, namely the use of archival and historical data sources.  My own background as a biological anthropologist will inevitably reflect the emphasis topics relevant to human biology.  However, as this weblog grows I hope to include posting relevant to all four subfields as they relate to the topic of archival data mining.

The genesis for this project lies within my circuitous route to my Ph.D in anthropology.  Prior to my graduate studies, I had been working as a field technician for contract archaeology firms in Upstate New York.  Initially starting graduate school as an archaeology student, I quickly became enamored of biological anthropology and evolutionary theory, which eventually saw me obtaining my Ph.D at Binghamton University with David Sloan Wilson.  However, throughout my graduate studies up to this very day, I continued working as a professional archaeologist, and am currently a project director for the Public Archaeology Facility of Binghamton University.  This then was my dilemma – I needed to unify the academic pursuit I had been engaged in for a significant part of my adult life with the occupation I had been engaged in for an even longer period of my life.  How would I do that?

The answer came in part when I got a hold of the edited volume Human Biologists in the Archives (edited by Ann Herring and Alan Swedlund).  This led to my interest in historical demography and the use of surnames as genetic markers (isonymy), which became a springboard for my current research focus.  Further book hoarding (a fairly common condition among both current and former graduate students, or so I am told) led me to Laskers Surnames and Genetic Structure.  The historical focus of these and other works in biological anthropology forms the nucleus of what I hope to cover in this weblog, and I am eager to hear from other anthropologists working the same vein (especially other bloggers).

Finally, a word about the blog title.  Southern Tier refers to the Southern Tier of New York State.  This is both my home and the focus of the lions share of my current research.  Thus I thought it appropriate to contextualize the work I am doing and create a more “localized” feel to the blog.  Context is essential in any historical (or biohistorical) work, and so the Southern Tier will occasionally figure prominently in the posts ahead. 

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