Dr. Sara K. Becker has studied human skeletal remains from ancient cultures of the Americas for more than 15 years, and received grants supporting this research from the National Science Foundation, the Smithsonian, the Hellman Foundation, and Sigma Xi: the Scientific Research Honor Society. Her focus on how ancient peoples’ labor shows up on bones, muscles, and joints of the human skeleton frames her inquiries on the development of early complex societies, noting who worked harder and who slacked off as part of community development. Regionally, she focuses on a culture that predates the Inca civilization by 1,000 years: the Tiwanaku (ca. A.D. 500-1100), the earliest state-level South American civilization of the South Central Andes. Dr. Becker’s wider interests include division of labor by gender, biomechanics, and the health and diet of Native groups during the European contact period.
Her current research in the more extreme environment of the high-altitude Andes around the Lake Titicaca Basin of Bolivia and Peru uses experimental archaeology and computer-aided motion capture modelling of modern people performing traditional labors (e.g. weaving, pottery production, nonmechanized farming) to reconstruct tasks and compare body movement patterns found on prehistoric human skeletal remains. Her research has been published in prominent journals such as Latin American Antiquity, Archeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association, and Journal of Archaeological Science, and highlighted multiple times at Forbes online. Dr. Becker was also featured in a podcast episode of “Anthropologist on the Street” and on an episode of the Discovery Channel show “Bone Detectives.”
On Archaeology and Forensic Anthropology
Dr. Becker is available to speak on a variety of topics related to archaeology, bioarcheology, and forensic anthropology, especially research that involves modern human bone, historic and prehistoric human skeletal remains, prehistoric labor, and European contact-era health.