History in Their Bones


"History in Their Bones" is a multidisciplinary research venture encompassing much of Cambodia, the heartland of Mainland SE Asia, to explore the major social and cultural transformations of the past four millennia.  This research would not be possible without support from the Australian Research Council.

Health, human mobility and social differentiation are fundamental to the three core archaeological issues of Mainland SE Asia - the nature of early agrarian rice growing communities, the impact of  'Indianisation' on the formation of the state, and the development and demise of empires.

Cambodia is especially well suited to investigate these core issues, because of its geographic location at the cross-roads of extensive cross-cultural interaction and the subsequent socio-political changes during the rise and decline of SE Asia's most powerful state centred on Angkor.

Accompanying the great cultural transformations were changes in resource distribution and utilisation, and population movement in response to economic opportunity and increasing social complexity.  Since the late 1960s, a period during which socio-political upheavals left Cambodia largely inaccessible to archaeological research, there have been major advances in the archaeological methods and analytical techniques which can extract cultural information from human skeletons to examine these processes. 

Our project uses an integrated bioarchaeological analysis of human skeletal remains which will provide key data on the history of the changes in the residential behaviour of agricultural communities, population displacement or continuity in the formative stages of state development, and regional differentiation in mortuary behaviour in imperial and post-imperial contexts as ritual traditions changed.

A diachronic, bioarchaeological study of diet, mobility and social organisation from Cambodian skeletal assemblages.