In October 2023, the BABAO EDI sub-group hosted the online panel and Q&A session titled “Approaching Diversity: Methods for, Thoughts on, and Critique of Ancestry Estimation and Population Affinity within the spheres of British Archaeology and Forensic Anthropology”
The panel focused on providing members with a grounding in the current state of methods employed by archaeologists and anthropologists to examine the concept of ancestry, and the limitations of these methods. Ancestry is a part of the biological profile that is often still taught within osteology courses and has a chapter dedicated to it within the BABAO Standards document. However, there has been a lot of debate recently within North American forensic anthropology over whether the use of these methods should be abandoned, particularly due to the systemic racism within the history, theory and praxis of biological anthropology and the origins of many of the methods used to investigate themes of ancestry and population affinity.
Whilst many of the critiques raised are often valid in their retrospection on the origins of the methods and the field in which they are applied, the wider context in which they are used within the UK and, more broadly, Europe are often different, especially within an archaeological setting. As such it was felt to be important that BABAO could provide its members with up-to-date information about these methods, their strengths and their limitations as well as their practical applications in British contexts.
Contributions to the event were provided by a range of panellists including Dr Joseph Hefner (Michigan State University – Skeletal Morphoscopic Analysis), Prof. Shara Bailey (New York State University – Dental Morphology), Dr Aylwyn Scally (University of Cambridge – Population Genetics) and Dr Julie Roberts (Liverpool John Moores University and Alecto Forensics – Ancestry in British Forensic Anthropology) with a Q&A session taking place after the presentations were complete.
DNA and Ancestry
Dr Aylwyn Scally
Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge
Video duration: 15:46 minutes
Population Affinity: Future efforts and current limitations in Forensic Anthropology
Dr Joseph T. Hefner, PhD, D-ABFA
Department of Anthropology, Michigan State University
Video duration: 19:48 minutes