This past week was the annual Paleopathology Association conference, which took place in Minneapolis, MN on April 12-13th. During the final session of talks, Charlotte Roberts, a paleopathology professor from Durham University (and one of my academic heroes), discussed the need for an international database for bioarchaeological collections.
Roberts reviewed 20 years of journal articles from the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology and found that two thirds of the material used was taken from only four collections: York, Bradford, Birmingham and the Museum of London. While restudies are a good way to test methods, the materials have been so overused that they are becoming damaged and other collections are being overlooked. Roberts argues that we need to consider the implications of all these restudies. In order to create more representative and nuanced interpretations of the past it is important to study a wide range of collections. If our