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Dr. John Dudgeon

Science-based Approaches to the Past: Prehistoric Mysteries Solved with Molecular Bioarchaeology

At the dawn of the 21st century, we are poised to decipher some of the most vexing and long-standing mysteries of the prehistoric past. Using methods and tools from the molecular sciences (biochemistry and genetics), bioarchaeologists seek to answer challenging archaeological questions about how past peoples sustained themselves in environments very different from today. Prehistoric human health and disease, plant and animal dietary preference, and migration and social interaction are a few of the important research topics in molecular bioarchaeology that will be covered in this forum.

State Standards

This presentation meets the following state education standards for high school students:

Social Studies

World History and Civilization

6-9.WHC.1.6.1 Describe types of evidence used by anthropologists, archaeologists, and other scholars to reconstruct early human and cultural development.

 

Science

Earth’s Systems

ESS2-HS-2. Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth’s surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems. • Further Explanation: Examples should include climate feedbacks, such as how an increase in greenhouse gases causes a rise in global temperatures that melts glacial ice, which reduces the amount of sunlight reflected from Earth’s surface, increasing surface temperatures and further reducing the amount of ice. Examples could also be taken from other system interactions, such as how the loss of ground vegetation causes an increase in water runoff and soil erosion; how dammed rivers increase groundwater recharge, decrease sediment transport, and increase coastal erosion; or how the loss of wetlands causes a decrease in local humidity that further reduces the wetland extent. Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth’s surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems. • Further Explanation: Examples should include climate feedbacks, such as how an increase in greenhouse gases causes a rise in global temperatures that melts glacial ice, which reduces the amount of sunlight reflected from Earth’s surface, increasing surface temperatures and further reducing the amount of ice. Examples could also be taken from other system interactions, such as how the loss of ground vegetation causes an increase in water runoff and soil erosion; how dammed rivers increase groundwater recharge, decrease sediment transport, and increase coastal erosion; or how the loss of wetlands causes a decrease in local humidity that further reduces the wetland extent.

ESS2-HS-4. Use a model to describe how variations in the flow of energy into and out of Earth’s systems result in changes in climate. • Further Explanation: Examples of the causes of climate change differ by timescale, over 1-10 years: large volcanic eruption, ocean circulation; 10-100s of years: changes in human activity, ocean circulation, solar output; 10-100s of thousands of years: changes to Earth's orbit and the orientation of its axis; and 10-100s of millions of years: long-term changes in atmospheric composition.

ESS3-HS-1. Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the availability of natural resources, occurrence of natural hazards, and changes in climate have influenced human activity. • Further Explanation: Examples of key natural resources include access to fresh water (such as rivers, lakes, and groundwater), regions of fertile soils such as river deltas, and high concentrations of minerals and fossil fuels. Examples of natural hazards can be from interior processes (such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes), surface processes (such as tsunamis, mass wasting and soil erosion), and severe weather (such as hurricanes, floods, and droughts). Examples of the results of changes in climate that can affect populations or drive mass migrations include changes to sea level, regional patterns of temperature and precipitation, and the types of crops and livestock that can be raised.