Snap-shots of research: early life stress and later life outcomes in Southeast Asian prehistory

Introducing snap-shots of research in the bioarchaeology of children

As part of this blog, I will feature the work of bioarchaeologists with an interest in infant and child remains through mini-interviews. In particular, I wish to highlight the work of emerging researchers in addition to established researchers. Our first interviewee is Dr Angela Clark, an Early Career Researcher who has an interest child development and morphology.

1) Tell me a little bit about your work?

All living people manage stress. My research addresses important anthropological questions regarding the effects of critical periods in human history, such as the agricultural transition, through examining stress indicators in the bones and teeth. The ultimate size and shape of the adult human skeleton is not only influenced by individual genetic potential, but is a result of the biosocial environment in which a child grew-up. Chronic stress during childhood has significant life-long effects on individual health and population well-being. My research aims to interpret episodes of childhood stress to enhance understanding of human adaptability and variability, and recognise how unique physical environments and sociocultural factors play their role in individual and population health.

2) How did you get into your field and why?

As a teenager I read books by the forensic anthropologist, Kathy Reichs. The human skeleton fascinated me, and I felt particularly drawn to the humanitarian aspect of returning the identity of the living person to the bones, and providing information of the circumstances surrounding an individuals’ death. Since then I have been privileged to examine humans remains, from archaeological contexts from the UK, Thailand, Peru, and the Cook Islands, and in the forensic context in New Zealand.

3) What is on the future horizon for your research?

I am particularly interested in the emerging field of forensic bioarchaeology, integrating my existing research skills with my professional connections and experience in forensic science to extend forensic human identification. My future research will use microscopic methods of human dental enamel to assess individual life-histories of early-life stresses and later health outcomes in both the survivors (adults) and non-survivors (children). From a forensic perspective, these methods can provide a detailed chronology of childhood stress, which can be as evidence in cases of chronic child abuse.

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Dr Clark is a bioarchaeologist with research expertise in human skeletal and dental developmental plasticity as a response to stress, using a biosocial approach, with a regional focus of Southeast Asia. She is an Affiliate Researcher in the Biological Anthropology Research Group, Department of Anatomy, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand, and is currently coordinating the Forensic Biology Summer School Paper at the University.

Angela’s publications:

Clark, A.L., Tayles, N., Buckley, H.R. and Neuman, F. (2015) The Rima Rau Burial Cave, Atiu, Cook Islands. Journal of Island & Coastal Archaeology, Doi:10.1080/15564894.2015.1050131.
Tayles, N., Halcrow, S. and Clark, A. (2015) Ban Non Wat: Current research on late prehistoric people in the Upper Mun River Valley, Northeast Thailand. In: N.H. Tan (ed.) Advancing Southeast Asian Archaeology 2013. Bangkok: SEAMEO Regional Centre for Archaeology and Fine Arts (SPAFA). pp. 279-288.
Clark, A.L. (2014) Health and sexual dimorphism at Bon Non Wat: the effects of the intensification of agriculture in prehistoric Southeast Asia [Etat de sante et dimorphisme sexuel a Bon Non Wat: Effects de l’intensifiction de l’agriculture dans l’Asie du Sud-Est prehistorique]. BMSAP, 26 (3-4), 196-204.
Clark, A.L., Tayles, N. and Halcrow, S.E. (2014) Aspects of health in prehistoric mainland southeast Asia: Indicators of stress in response to the intensification of rice agriculture. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 153, 484-495.
Clark, A., Tayles, N. and Halcrow, S. (2012) Sexual dimorphism in adult skeletal remains at Ban Non Wat, Thailand, during the intensification of agriculture in early prehistoric southeast Asia. In: Proceedings of the twelfth annual conference of the British Association for Biological Anthropology

 

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