Jess Beck Visiting Scholar

headshot
3135 WWPH

Jess Beck (PhD, University of Michigan, 2016), is the Visiting Scholar in the Center for Comparative Archaeology at the University of Pittsburgh for 2016-2017. She is an anthropological archaeologist and bioarchaeologist who studies human skeletal remains from archaeological sites to learn about social inequality in prehistory. Beck uses techniques like stable isotope analysis, radiocarbon dating, and mortuary archaeology to investigate relationships between health, diet, mobility, and social inequality in the past. She examines early complex societies in Late Prehistoric Europe, particularly the Copper Age and Early Bronze Age in Spain and Romania. Her work at the Center for Comparative Archaeology focuses on identifying quantitative signatures of different mortuary treatments, and analyzing the rise of large-scale villages in Copper Age Iberia through a bioarchaeological lens.

In conjunction with Professor Liz Arkush, Dr. Beck coordinates the annual Seminar in Comparative Archaeology. 

Beck, Jess (2016) Minding the gaps: A methodological approach to inter-individual variability in skeletal completion. American Antiquity 81(4):148-156.

Quinn, Colin and Jess Beck (2016) Essential Tensions: A Framework for Exploring Inequality through Mortuary Archaeology and Bioarchaeology. Open Archaeology, 2: 18-41

Beck, Jess (2015) Part of the family: Age, identity and burial in Copper Age Iberia. In Theoretical Approaches to Analysis and Interpretation of Commingled Human Remains. Edited by A. Osterholtz, pp. 47-73. Springer International: Cham.
Beck, Jess, Ian Ostericher, Gregory Sollish and Jason De León (2015) Animal scavenging and scattering and the implications for documenting the deaths of undocumented border crossers in the Sonoran Desert. Journal of Forensic Sciences 60:S11-S20.
Beck, Jessica and Stephen Chrisomalis (2008) Landscape archaeology, paganism, and the interpretation of megaliths. The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies 10(2): 142-162.

Seminar in Comparative Archaeology

The seminar uses a bioarchaeological lens to explore the ways in which social inequalities manifest in the human body, weaving together contributions from ethnography, material culture studies, and mortuary archaeology to 'flesh out' studies of human remains. We will examine how particular aspects of social identity (e.g. gender, childhood) amplify or diminish inequalities in different contexts. We will also read a range of case studies that illustrate how trajectories of increasing social inequality vary over time and space, examining how large-scale social processes (e.g. aggregation, warfare, colonialism) impact human bodies. Overall, the seminar will analyze how social inequalities become embodied in human skeletal remains while also being shaped by social, ecological, and economic factors.

The seminar meets on selected Fridays at 12:00 in the Anthropology Lounge. All are welcome to participate in the conversation, whether formally enrolled or not. Meeting topics for Fall Term include:

Mid-September: Embodying Inequality: Bioarchaeological approaches to inequality.

Late September: Bioarchaeology Workshop.

October: Engendering Disparity: Gender, labor, and violence.

November: The Age of Innocence? Childhood identity and experience from a bioarchaeological perspective

December: The Dead Don't Bury Themselves: Mortuary treatment, social organization, and inequality.