Archive for the BAS News Category

AAA Biological Anthropology Section (BAS) Statement on the MOVE Remains

The Executive Committee of the Biological Anthropology Section of the American Anthropological Association restates its commitment to the ethical and respectful treatment of human remains. We express solidarity with the joint statement from The Association of Black Anthropologists (ABA), The Society of Black Archaeologists (SBA), and The Black in Bioanthropology Collective (BiBA)1.

Recently, the Penn Museum committed to repatriate the remains of Black Philadelphians and others who were taken almost two centuries ago by Samuel Morton for racist science that constitutes the foundations of physical anthropology in the United States. Only weeks later, we learned that some remains of Africa family members murdered in the 1985 police bombing of West Philadelphia were left in the custody of Alan Mann at the Penn Museum with hope of achieving a definitive identification, transferred to Princeton University with him, and recently used by Penn curator Janet Monge as part of an online course about forensic methods. While the specific identities of these remains have been a continued matter of debate among forensic scientists, the Africa family has been clear about the harms these actions have caused (Move Press Conference).

Meaningful actions are needed to address the demands of the Africa family and our colleagues in ABA, SBA, and BiBA, and we understand that some efforts are already underway. At the same time, we recognize that these problems extend far beyond any one scientist, one institution, one city, or one discipline. We must therefore work for broad systemic change and move to disrupt and upend the historical ties between anthropology and state-sanctioned anti-Black violence. The work of Morton – along with the work of many other physical anthropologists – wrongfully provided scientific justification for chattel slavery and helped sustain post-emancipation forms of anti-Black violence to the present. This body of science helped shore up the racist systems and structures of power that made anti-Black brutality such as the MOVE bombing possible. These histories are not separate and disconnected, but interdependent.

We therefore recognize that the prolonged possession and use of the Africa family’s remains – and the forensic standards that inform these decisions – are simultaneously outcomes and continuations of systemic violence. Furthermore, just as the practices of racial science are not new, neither are critiques of it. There have been nearly two centuries of sustained Black criticism of such work2,3, with the recent calls for repatriation of the Morton collection and the MOVE remains being the latest iteration. It is critical that we acknowledge these critiques and not erase or deny long-standing efforts to make us grapple with the consequences of our science. The pain and suffering expressed by the Africa family makes clear how urgently change is needed.

We assert that the use and display of human remains obtained by violent or dubious means, retained beyond their original scope, or used for purposes other than those which descendant or stakeholder communities have explicitly allowed must end. It is incumbent upon all biological anthropologists to scrutinize our practices and those of our institutions in relation to human remains, including their use in research, teaching, and non-academic contexts. We recommend that evaluations of institutional holdings and practices involving human remains become a standard part of departmental and institutional external reviews. We must also take steps to correct any questionable, problematic, or unethical practices and develop effective institutional policies and community relations to better govern future work with human remains. However, because research on human remains does not legally constitute human subjects research in the U.S., this work is considered exempt from Institutional Review Board oversight. Anthropologists therefore need to move beyond these minimally required institutional protections. Existing bioethical frameworks can help guide these efforts, but because contemporary bioethics was designed for research involving living human subjects, these frameworks are not, by themselves, sufficient. Incorporating anti-racist ethical standards is necessary.

This is not to say that all research involving human remains must end – decolonial and anti-racist anthropology have a long history and are rapidly expanding areas of work. But our discipline is built on a foundation of bones and bodies. Let that foundation shift, crack, and unsettle as it is emptied of remains that were obtained through – and sustain – anti-Black and other forms of colonial violence. On that unsettled ground, we can work towards better relations with and for those who want to work with us, and together seek a less violent and more life-affirming future.

1Concerning the Possession and Unethical Use of the Remains of the Children of MOVE and the Africa Family: A Collective Statement from the Association of Black Anthropologists (ABA), the Society of Black Archaeologists (SBA), and the Black in Bioanthropology Collective (BiBA). Wednesday, April 28, 2021.

2Douglass, Frederick (1854). The Claims of the Negro, Ethnologically Considered. An address before the Literary Societies of Western Reserve College, At Commencement, July 12, 1854.

3Firmin, Anténor (1885). De l’égalité des races humaines: anthropologie positive.

February 2019, BAS updates

Happy new year, BAS membership!

The following monthly e-blast provides several updates on Biological Anthropology Section member news. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me (


Thank you to everyone who took the time and resources to attend the meetings in San Jose this year. I would like to especially thank our outgoing Chair, Katie MacKinnon, and our program chair, Christopher Dana Lynn, for putting together an outstanding program. We were excited to feature Dr. Barbara King as our distinguished lecture and to recognize Sang-Hee Lee with the Howells Book Prize for her recent book, Close Encounters with Humankind.

In addition to Katie’s transition from chair to past-chair, the 2018 Annual Meetings marked the end of Julie Lesnik’s service as a member at-large, and Melanie Beasley as the student member at-large on the executive committee. Incoming members of the committee including Holly Dunsworth (chair-elect), Kerry Dore (member at-large), and Amanda Hardie (student member at-large).

Amanda Hardie

Holly Dunsworth

Kerry Dore




Next year’s meetings will be hosted in collaboration with the Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA) in Vancouver (Nov. 20-24). It is not too early to begin thinking about proposals! The theme of next year’s meeting is, “Changing Climates: Struggle, Collaboration, and Justice//Changer d’air : Lutte, collaboration et justice.” If you are interested in submitting an Executive Session Proposal, submissions are due Feb. 7 by 3 p.m. ET. The deadline for regular proposals and abstracts is April 10 at 3 p.m. ET. If you have questions about a proposal, feel free to reach out to our BAS Program Chair Christopher Dana Lynn (



A couple of brief notes on BAS business matters. You will be getting a ballot later on in the year for new executive committee positions. This year we will be electing a new member at-large (replacing Marc Kissel, who will conclude his service after the 2019 meetings). In addition to electing an at-large member, the BAS ballot will also include a vote on proposed changes to our section by-laws. These changes, announced at our business meeting in San Jose, reflect relatively minor changes to the existing by-laws intended to improve the functionality and resilience of our leadership structure. The ballot will include more substantive details, but the primary change would be to add an official program co-chair to our executive committee and to add language prohibiting harassment and discrimination in the context of our annual meetings. These proposed changes come with full support of the executive committee.

Best wishes on the beginning of a great new year,

Adam Van Arsdale

BAS chair

Associate Professor of Anthropology

Wellesley College

AMNH Curator Position in Biological Anthropology

The Division of Anthropology, American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), is conducting an open search for a position in Biological Anthropology with a specialization in paleoanthropology (human origins) at the level of Assistant, Associate, or Full Curator. This is a tenure-track position. For candidates showing notable experience and accomplishment, there is possibility of tenure at the time of appointment, pending review and determination through the Museum’s tenure process. Candidates should have a strong background and evidence of documented or potential international leadership in paleoanthropological research. AMNH Biological Anthropology collections are some of the most comprehensive in the world, offering a unique opportunity for collections research. Extensive possibilities also exist for professional interaction with colleagues at AMNH across the biological and physical sciences. AMNH curatorships are defined as research positions and evidence of an active research program is essential, ideally including an active field component. Prior experience with museum collections is also an asset.

AMNH curators are expected to maintain a high level of productivity in original research, to seek
extramural funding, and to assume oversight responsibility for the management of Museum collections relevant to their areas of expertise. Other responsibilities or opportunities may include advising graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, offering courses in the Museum’s Richard Gilder Graduate School, serving on academic and administrative committees, and participating in Museum-sponsored exhibits and educational programs. Candidates should have completed the Ph.D. degree. The American Museum of Natural History is committed to the principles of Affirmative Action and encourages applications from women and minority candidates. For further information about the position contact Dr. David Hurst Thomas (

Interested candidates should submit the following materials in PDF format:
a) cover statement including the candidate’s name, address, and current position and including a
description of the candidate’s research interests, accomplishments, and plans.
b) list of dissertation advisors, committee members, co-authors and co-PIs on funded grants
during the preceding five years.
c) detailed curriculum vitae, complete bibliography, copies of up to five relevant publications.
d) names, positions, institutional affiliations and contact information for no more than three
referees regarding the applicants professional qualifications.

All materials should be submitted in PDF format directed to Anita Caltabiano (attention,
Anthropology Search Committee) ( To receive the fullest consideration, applications should be received no later than November 30, 2017.

This employer does prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation/preference.
This employer does prohibit discrimination based on gender identity/expression.
This employer offers health insurance benefits to eligible same-sex domestic partners.
This employer does not appear on the AAUP list of censured institutions.

John C. Willman Awarded the 2015 BAS Student Prize!

Willman_research_photoJohn C. Willman,  a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Washington University in Saint Louis, was awarded the 2015 Biological Anthropology Section Student Prize. Willman’s work explores non-masticatory dental wear, or the use of “teeth as tools”, among Neandertals and early modern humans. John presented in the session entitled “Advances in European Bioarchaeology and Mortuary Analysis”  at the Denver AAA meeting this year. His podium presentation was entitled “Labret Use Among the Pavlovian Peoples of Mid Upper Paleolithic Central Europe: A New Interpretation of the Buccal Wear Facets at Brno III, Dolní Vestonice, Pavlov, and Predmostí.”

Abstract: The unusual “buccal facets” on the cheek teeth of early modern humans from the Mid Upper Paleolithic (MUP) Central Europe are well-documented, but the phenomenon remains poorly understood. A review of buccal wear facet prevalence at all relevant MUP sites, an analysis of age-related changes in the patterning of facets, and bioarchaeological and ethnographic comparisons suggest that phenomenon is related to intentional body modification – namely, the wearing of large, facial “labrets”.

Ethnographically, labrets are known as a form of personal adornment, permanently secured through incisions in the cheeks (or lips), and gradually stretched to incorporate larger labrets. Permanently fixed labrets in the MUP sample examined here is documented by the consistent presence of facets on the maxillary dentition across all age categories. The surface area affected by buccal facets also increases along an age gradient, providing evidence for gradual stretching to incorporate larger labrets during an individual’s lifetime. Children are affected, but prevalence reaches 100% in adolescents and adults. Only one side of the dentition is affected among children and adolescents, while one or both sides are affected in adults. When both sides exhibit facets, wear is asymmetric, suggesting that a second labret is related to aspects of adulthood.

Material evidence of labrets associated with individuals exhibiting buccal facets are known from several prehistoric contexts and strengthens these conclusions. The high prevalence of buccal facets and strong age-related patterning supports a case for labret use as a marker of individual and social identity among the MUP peoples of Central Europe.

Congratulations, John!

For a list of past winners, and information on how to apply next year, click here.

What BAS members are saying about the AAA meetings

Adam Van Arsdale, biological anthropologist at Wellesley College and author of the Pleistocene Scene blog, wrote this fantastic blog post about the benefits of attending the AAA meetings as a BAS member. He writes, “The AAAs, despite their size, offer a unique ‘meeting within a meeting’ experience” because of the close group of biological anthropologists who congregate there. He ends the post with this call:

Now is the time to start thinking about panels you might be interested in putting together for next year’s meetings which will be in Denver, and I am the person to get in touch with for feedback on those ideas. The AAAs are valuable, but overwhelming. But the BAS portion of the AAAs?… they are free to be shaped in ways that create a degree of academic intimacy hard to achieve in larger settings. And if you are a biological anthropologist inclined towards the holistic view of anthropology, the BAS is an invaluable professional network and set of colleagues.

Read the full post here, and contact Adam at avanarsd(at)wellesley(dot)edu with ideas for next year!

2014 W.W. Howells Book Award Winner

The selection committee for the W.W. Howells Book Award in Biological Anthropology is pleased to announce the 2014 winner. This year’s award will go Lynne A. Isbell for her book, The Fruit, the Tree, and the Serpent: Why We See So Well, published by Harvard University Press (2009). In this book, Isbell develops her intriguing “Snake Detection Theory,” arguing that snake predation was an important influence on primate evolution and that selection for the ability to detect snakes played a major role in the evolution of the primate visual system.  Lynne received the award at the BAS Business meeting, December 5, 2014. Congratulations, Lynne!

For more information on the W.W. Howells Book Award, given by the Biological Anthropology Section of the AAA, or for a list of previous winners, click here.

It’s time to apply for the BAS Student Poster/Paper Award

Are you a student? Are you giving a presentation at the AAA meetings? Are you interested in positive exposure with colleagues in your field (and $250!)?

Then apply now for the BAS student prize!

  • Send an email to Adam Van Arsdale
  • Include your name, presentation title, abstract, and presentation time/session
  • Make sure it is received no later than November 14, 2014.

To learn more about your eligibility and the rules, click hereSee last year’s winners featured here.

2013 AAA BAS Student Paper/Poster Award Results

KisselThe winner of the BAS Student Paper/Poster Award for 2013 is Marc Kissel (University of Wisconsin, Madison) for his paper, “Testing Genetic Models of Human Evolutionary History against the Anthropological Record.”

Comparing measurements of supraorbital skeletal features from two Neandertal populations (Vindjia and Krapina), Kissel explores whether genetic drift or natural selection best explains observed morphological variability. Having found that observed variability cannot be explained by drift alone, he suggests that closer attention be paid to human reproductive behavior as illustrated in ethnographic record of hunter-gatherer communities, and that effective population size may not be a good indicator of census size in the Pleistocene.

ScottHonorable mention for this prize went to Jill E. Scott (University of Iowa) for her paper, “A 3-D Morphometric Analysis of Mandibular Symphyseal Variation in Homo.”

In this paper, Jill Scott tests whether various measurements of chin morphology can be used to successfully differentiate H. sapiens, H. neanderthalensis, and H. heidelbergensis. Using Principal Component Analysis, she finds that H. sapiens separate from both Neandertals and H. heidelbergensis along PC1. However along PC2, H. sapiens group with Neandertals to the exclusion of H. heidelbergensis. In this study, she explores new ways to measure and statistically test morphological differences that have been explored primarily in a qualitative manner in the literature.

BAS strives to increase student participation in AAA

BAS Student Representative Sarah Livengood initiated an informative survey to investigate the barriers to student participation in AAA. Eighty percent of 113 respondents indicated that they had never attended a AAA meeting. In large part this is because students don’t feel they have anything to present, but the cost of membership and registration is also an important factor. Students also indicated that they would be very interested in mentorship programs and sessions on professionalization. BAS is committed to engaging biological anthropology students in the broader discipline of anthropology and in AAA activities in particular and this preliminary survey sets the stage for future action.

2012 AAA BAS Student Paper/Poster Award Results

Michaela Howells

The winner of the BAS Student Paper/Poster Award for 2012 is Michaela Howells (University of Colorado, Boulder) for her paper, “You Just Have to Wait: The Impact of Marital Status on the Pregnancy Outcomes of Samoan Women” with co-authors Richard Bender, Darna L. Dufour, John Ah Ching, and Bethal Mua’sau. 



BAS-member selected as AAA Leadership Fellow

Julienne Rutherford has been selected as a AAA Leadership Fellow

2011 AAA BAS Student Paper/Poster Award Results

We are very pleased to announce the winner of this year’s student prize for outstanding presentation:

Meredith Ellis (Syracuse University) for her paper,  “A Disciplined Childhood: A Social Bioarchaeology of the Subadults of the Spring Street Presbyterian Church”. This paper is going to be published in an edited volume by Jennifer L. Thompson, Marta Alfonso-Durruty, John J. Crandall, “Tracing Childhood: Bioarchaeological Investigations of Early Lives in Antiquity”.

We are also pleased to announce a runner-up:

Valentine Volk (Cleveland State University), for her paper, “A Preliminary Assessment of Health and Disease at the Late Woodland Mayer Site, Vermillion, Ohio”.

2011 W.W. Howells Book Award Results

The 2011 W.W. Howells Book Award was presented to Wenda Trevathan for her book, Ancient Bodies, Modern Lives: How Evolution Has Shaped Women’s Health. Oxford University Press.

The book was recognized as an insightful and compelling consideration of the importance of evolution to women’s biology and health.

“Written by a leading light in the field of evolutionary medicine, Wenda Trevathan’s Ancient Bodies, Modern Lives describes how many contemporary health problems, particularly those of women, are the result of a mismatch between our “Stone Age” bodies that evolved over millions of years and our current (and radically changed) life styles. Thorough, authoritative, and easy to understand, this book offers suggestions for making informed decisions that impact the health of contemporary women and that of their children and their children’s children. Run, don’t walk (or stroll bipedally), to give this important and elegantly written book to your favorite bride-to-be, mother-to-be, mother, grandmother, or great grandmother! Inquisitive men will also find this book engaging.” –Dean Falk, Ph.D., Hale G. Smith Professor of Anthropology, Florida State University.

Letter from Karen Strier to BAS members

Download the letter

BAS communication re: AAA Mission Statement

BAS Executive Committee communication on AAA Mission Statement:
Download as PDF

The above is the official BAS response.

Some members and other biological anthropologists also composed and sent this letter to the Executive Board of the AAA.

109th Annual Meeting

109th Annual Meeting was held in New Orleans, November 17-21, 2010.

The Distinguished Lecture was given by Ken Weiss: “What Darwin got wrong and why it matters.”

The 2010 WW Howells Award winner is Bernard Chapais (University of Montreal) for his book, Primeval Kinship: How Pair-Bonding Gave Birth to Human Society.

2010 AAA Meetings: sessions of interest to BAS

List of sessions of interest to BAS members:

  • Innovative Methods in Biological Anthropology
  • Circulating Through Us: Violence, Trauma and Memory
  • Critical Collisions in Health and Culture: Sleep
  • Ancient Humans: Birth, Health and Lifestyle
  • Biocultural Acts, Biocultural Survival
  • Biocultural Adaptation and Evolution: Guts, Diet and Microbes

BAS Executive Committee communication on AAA Mission Statement

Download as PDF

Recap of the 2009 AAA Meetings

The 2009 W.W. Howells Book Award winners are Alan Walker and Pat Shipman for their book, The Ape in the Tree:  An Intellectual and Natural History of Proconsul, published by Harvard University Press. From Robert Proctor’s Science book review: “The Ape in the Tree is a fine account of new ways to puzzle out the behaviors of fossilized animals from odd scraps of bones.”

The BAS Student Award Winner for 2009 was Molly Zuckerman for her paper “Making Sex Less Dangerous: Evaluating the Evolution of Virulence in Syphilis.” Honorable mentions went to Matt Nowak for his poster “Group size, social structure, and ranging in lar-gibbons: implications for the ecological constraints model,” and to Carrie Veilleux for her paper “Habitat preference and nocturnal lemur color vision: implications for primate and human evolution.”

The 2009 Distinguished Lecture was presented by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy. The title of the lecture was “Darwin and the Ascent of Emotionally Modern Man: How Humans Became such Hypersocial Apes.”

Program Chair Debra Martin, organizes thee BAS sponsored and cosponsored sessions. This year we had 23 volunteered abstracts that came to us for review – almost all of them requested podium except for 3 that preferred being in a poster session. We accepted all of the abstracts, and organized them into 2 thematic session and 1 poster session. Some individuals were asked if they would shift their papers to posters or vice versa, and everyone did agree. The themes/titles for the volunteered paper sessions included “Evolutionary Perspectives on Morphology, the Brain and Tool Use” and “Biocultural Perspectives on Inequality, Health and Diet.” The posters were grouped into two themes, one having to do with forensics and field methods, and one having to do with cooperative breeding. In addition to these volunteered sessions, there was one organized session on “Bioarchaeology of Captivity and Slavery” organized by Debra Martin and Ventura Perez. We used our invited designations for one of the volunteered sessions, the captivity and slavery session and we co-sponsored a session with Medical Anthropology in immigration and health. All BAS sessions were spread out across the days and time slots, and do not seem to conflict with other biological sessions that did not go through BAS (such as the Presidential session on Darwin). In 2008we had a total of 49 papers and posters, and in 2007 a total of 34. The declining numbers of papers/posters is a concern and we will work to increase the number.

The Reception followed the distinguished lecture. I had requested a room for 100 people for the both events. The lecture was schedule for a smaller room (about 75 seats) and was overly full with people sitting on the floor. The room was too small to set up the reception in the back of the room as planned (and discussed with the hotel in at least 3 phone calls). The inadequate space negatively impacted the reception and it did not last as long as usual.