Frailty, Thy Name is (not) Woman: A bioarchaeological perspective on bone loss, strength, and aging - Dr. Agarwal


Location: Corbett Family Hall 108

Agarwalposter Midres Edited

Dr. Sabrina Agarwal (Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley) will be visiting Notre Dame on March 4-5, 2019 as part of the Sr. Kathleen Cannon Lecture Series, and co-sponsored by the Provost’s Office, Department of Anthropology, Gender Studies, Department of Biological Sciences, the Medieval Institute, and the Graduate School. 

Dr. Agarwal is one of the world’s preeminent scholars of bioarchaeological research on the effects of age, sex, and gender-related changes in the human skeleton, investigating how past peoples’ identities and well-beings were literally and figuratively written into their bones. Specifically, she conducts bioarchaeological research using innovative methods to understand bone development over the life course, and employs archeological sites to explore diverse social contexts that structure biological development, including aging, and variation in experiences based on bodily differences related to sex, gender, class and status. She has engaged with contemporary feminist approaches in archaeology to advance a theoretically informed bioarcheology of sex and gender. More recently, she has become particularly focused on the application of research in bone biology to dialogues of embodiment, developmental plasticity, structural violence, and disability in bioarchaeology. Her research scope is global, with participation in field projects in Turkey and Italy and through laboratory analyses of archaeological samples from the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Mexico, and Colombia and Japan.

On Monday, 4 March from 5:00-6:15, Dr. Agarwal will present a public lecture in Corbett Family Hall 108, followed by a reception in Corbett 102 (small poster attached for ease of email communication):

Sr. Kathleen Cannon Series Lecture

Monday, 4 March, 2019

Corbett Family Hall 108

5:00 – 6:15 pm, reception with light appetizers to follow


Sabrina C. Agarwal

Professor of Anthropology, University of California Berkeley

Frailty, Thy Name is (not) Woman: A bioarchaeological perspective on bone loss, strength, and aging

Bioarchaeology (the study of archaeological human remains together with contextual and documentary evidence) offers a unique avenue to investigate aspects of social change and identity in the past. As a dynamic tissue that is forged by biocultural factors over the entire lifetime, the human skeleton provides a record of individual and community life history. Various aspects of adult bone health, particularly bone loss and fragility, have been examined in past populations. The focus of bone loss in the past has been on females as a “weaker sex” and interpretation has traditionally been on the signature of diminished reproductive capabilities and fragility, contrasted against the male signature of bone strength.  However, empirical research on bone maintenance and bone aging in the Medieval archaeological record will be presented that show that patterns of bone loss do not constitute predictable consequences of aging or biological sex. Instead, the critical examination of bioarchaeological data highlights the complex and changing processes that craft the human body over the life course, and the role of archaeological remains in revealing the biosocial worlds of our ancestors. 

Sponsored by:
Gender Studies
Biological Sciences
Medieval Institute
Graduate School
Provost Office