Recent Faculty Activities (2012–2014)

Tracy Betsinger is a coauthor of a paper entitled “Apotropaic Practices and the Undead: A Biogeochemical Assessment of Deviant Burials in Post-Medieval Poland” in the online journal PLoS One. This study examines burials in a Polish cemetery that indicated a belief in vampirism, such as sickles or rocks being placed on the neck of the deceased to prevent their rising. The study looked at strontium isotope ratios derived from the teeth of these burials to demonstrate that they were local inhabitants and not migrants. While their reason for special burial treatment remains unclear, it may be related to social factors, such as being born out of wedlock, or biological factors that cannot be observed on the skeleton, such as dying from cholera. The study has been featured in a number of media, including USA Today, NBC News, the LA Times, and Science Daily, among others.


Tracy Betsinger is the senior author of an article entitled “Governing from the Grave: Vampire Burials and Social Order in Post-Medieval Poland” in the Cambridge Archaeological Journal (24:467–476). This article examines how vampire mythology was used to ensure people followed the rules of the Church as well as how “vampires” became scapegoats for unexplained deaths.


Tracy Betsinger co-organized an international symposium entitled, “The Odd, the Unusual, and the Strange: Human and Animal Deviant Burials and their Cultural Contexts” at the recent meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists in Istanbul, Turkey. She presented the paper, “Biology or Culture: Determinants of Deviant Burials in Post-Medieval Poland” as part of the session.


John Relethford has published a book review of Anthropology of Race: Genes, Biology, and Culture, edited by J. Hartigan (School for Advanced Research Press). His review appears in the latest issue of the American Journal of Human Biology (26:432-433, 2014).


William Starna, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, has been appointed the National Endowment for the Humanities Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Humanities at Hartwick College for the Fall 2014 semester. In this capacity, he will teach two courses: Histories of the Native Peoples of Eastern North America and Seminar in Contemporary American Indian Communities. He will also deliver a public lecture on a topic related to his on-going research on American Indian issues.


Donald Hill was interviewed as part of a show that aired on JAZZ90.1, a public radio station in Rochester, NY. He was a guest on Jeff Harris’s “Big Road Blues” show that focused on the jug band music of Gus Cannon (who was one of the originators of jug band music and who recorded extensively in the 1920s), and Hill’s recording of a Cannon performance. The show is available at:


Renee Walker has published a book chapter entitled “The dogs of Spirit Hill: An analysis of domestic dog burials from Jackson County, Alabama,” published in the edited volume Trends and Tradition in Southeastern Archaeology, edited by TM Peres (University Press of Florida).


Renee Walker has published an introductory textbook entitled Prehistoric World Cultures (Cognella

 Press, 2014). This text covers the significant events, developments and cultural changes in world prehistory. The text provides students with an understanding of changes through time from the evolution of our species to the development of complex civilizations.

Sallie Han appeared on WAMC (Northeast Public Radio) on January 31, presenting the day’s “Academic Minute,” where she discussed the cultural meaning of what material items are collected by expectant parents during pregnancy. The text and audio are available at:

Donald Hill, Africana/Latino Studies and Anthropology, had the following items published during his sabbatical last fall:

·       Review of From Tin Pan to TASPO: Steelband in Trinidad, 1939-1951.  Kin Johnson.  Kingston, Jamaica, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago: University of the West Indies Press. Viii + 350 pp. 2011. “New West Indian Guide/Nieuwe West-Indisch Gids² (NWIG) (Leiden, The Netherlands):”), Vol. 87 v 1&2, 2013.

·       The following articles are in The Encyclopedia of Caribbean Religions: Volume 1: A-L; Volume 2: M-Z (Patrick Taylor and Frederick I. Case, eds.), University of Illinois Press. August 30, 2013: “Carriacou,” pp. 151-156 and “Nation Dance, Carriacou” (lead author is Dr. Lorna McDaniel), pp. 626-680.  Dr. Hill is especially proud of these articles, since the encyclopedia is written mostly by scholars from the countries where the religious traditions are found.

·       Blues From Maxwell Street ­ 1960, 1965, Augmented Original Field Recordings originally published as “Heritage” LP 1004 (London: 1963), Document Records DOCD 5692, London, England, 2013.

·       The 1953 Dial Records of Carnival Music in Trinidad, When Steel Talks (website),, includes photographs and a sound recording, September 2013.

Renee Walker co-organized a symposium with Meagan Dennison (University of Tennessee) entitled “Gender in Southeastern Archaeology and Beyond” at the Southeastern Archaeology Conference in Tampa, FL. The symposium highlighted research on the topic of gender in the prehistoric and historic Southeast and adjacent regions. Ten papers were presented and two discussants commented on the papers.

Tracy Betsinger is coauthor of a paper entitled “Diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH) in pre-Columbian North America: Evidence from the eastern Tennessee River Valley” which is published in the International Journal of Paleopathology (3:11–18, 2013). The article examines this pathological condition, which affects the vertebral column and provides baseline data from the prehistoric Southeast, for which there are no data for this condition.

Tracy Betsinger is coauthor of a book chapter entitled “Teeth, morphogenesis, and levels of variation in the human Carabelli trait” which appears in the volume Anthropological Perspectives on Tooth Morphology: Genetics, Evolution, Variation, edited by GR Scott and JD Irish (Cambridge University Press, 2013).

Tracy Betsinger co-organized a symposium entitled “The Odd, the Unusual, and the Strange: Human Deviant Burials and their Cultural Contexts” at the annual meeting of the Canadian Association for Physical Anthropology (CAPA-ACAP) held October 16-20, 2013. As part of the symposium, Dr. Betsinger co-authored the introductory paper “The Evolution of the Unknown: Deviant Burials and Archaeological Interpretations,” which provided an overview on non-normative burials and how they have been interpreted from various perspectives.

John Relethford’s book Human Population Genetics has been translated into Italian and published by Casa Editrice Ambrosiana as Genetica delle Popolazioni Umane.

John Relethford has published a chapter entitled “Understanding human cranial variation in light of modern human origins” in the edited volume The Origins of Modern Humans: Biology Reconsidered, edited by F.H. Smith and J.C.M. Ahern (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 321–337, 2013). This chapter reviews recent work (including that of Relethford) that shows how global patterns of variation in human cranial size and shape mirror the patterns seen in DNA variation, reflecting the expansion of our species out of Africa over the last 100,000 years. The amount of cranial diversity is highest in sub-Saharan Africa and declines with increasing distance out of Africa, consistent with repeated founder effects as our species dispersed throughout the world. The pattern of similarity between human populations has been affected primarily by the geographic routes of prehistoric human dispersal.

William Starna, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, was an invited discussant at the Algonquian Peoples Seminar held on September 28 at the New York State Museum. Addressed was the manner in which the aboriginal boundaries of American Indian groups are assessed, including the Mahican Indians of the Hudson Valley, for the purposes of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990.

Sallie Han has published a book, Pregnancy in Practice: Expectation and Experience in the Contemporary US, with Berghahn Books. Grounded in ethnographic research, the book examines pregnancy as a cultural and social experience and looks anew at the everyday practices of North American childbearing, from sonograms to baby showers. The book is part of Berghahn’s award winning series on Fertility, Reproduction, and Sexuality, edited by Soraya Tremayne (Oxford) and Marcia Inhorn (Yale).

John Relethford has published a review of the book Causes and Consequences of Human Migration: An Evolutionary Perspective, edited by MH Crawford and BC Campbell (Cambridge University Press) in the American Journal of Human Biology (25:569, 2013).

John Relethford has published a paper entitled ‘Commentary on Sokal et al.’s “Historical population movements in Europe influence genetic relationships in modern samples” (1996)’ in Human Biology (84:605–606, 2012). This commentary dealt with the influence of a 1996 paper written by the late Robert Sokal in a special commemorative issue of Human Biology.

Sallie Han has been invited to participate in the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute on American Material Culture, to be held July 2013 at Bard Graduate Center in New York City. She is one of 18 scholars selected from a national application process to take part in the interdisciplinary seminar.

Tracy Betsinger presented four posters at the joint conference of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists and the Paleopathology Association held April 8 – April 13. The poster, “Caries prevalence and the late prehistoric Dallas phase: a regional cultural pattern of female maize consumption in East Tennessee” was part of a symposium that she co-organized. The other posters, “Burying the child in post-medieval Poland: Prenatal vs. postnatal remains,” “The misshapen man: A differential diagnosis,” and “Hidden hematoma: Subadult endocranial bleeding in post-medieval Poland” were all based on her research on a skeletal collection from 17th-18th century Poland.

John Relethford’s recent paper in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology on the population genetics of the Irish Travellers (see item below) was chosen as a “Research Highlight” in the December 6 issue of the international science journal Nature (492:10, 2012).

John Relethford is the senior author of a paper entitled “Genetic drift and the population history of the Irish Travellers” published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology (150:184–189, 2013), with Michael Crawford of the University of Kansas as coauthor. This paper uses genetic data from red blood cell markers collected by Crawford in the 1970s to address the origins of the Irish Travellers, an itinerant group in Ireland. Some have argued that the Travellers are of Irish origin, and others have proposed that they are related to the Roma, based on superficial similarity of lifestyle. Genetic distance analyses show that the Travellers are of Irish origin, and genetic differences from the rest of Ireland have resulted from genetic drift (random fluctuations in the frequencies of genetic markers due to small population size).

Sallie Han has been elected chair of the Council on Anthropology and Reproduction, a professional organization of researchers and practitioners working on issues of reproduction. CAR, founded in 1979, is one of the largest Special Interest Groups of the Society for Medical Anthropology, with more than 200 members from the United States and abroad. The group convenes at the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association, and sponsors a graduate student paper award and a book prize to recognize emerging and influential scholarship on reproduction. She will be serving as chair-elect during 2013, then serve a two-year term as chair of CAR.

Tracy Betsinger co-organized a symposium entitled, “Culture, Morbidity, and Mortality in the Southeast: Current Research in Bioarchaeology” at the 69th annual meeting of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. As part of the symposium, Dr. Betsinger presented the paper “Transpositions, Talon Cusps, and Supernumerary Teeth: Chewing Over the Meaning of Anomalies of the Permanent Dentition in Late Prehistoric East Tennessee,” which examined dental anomalies in a prehistoric population and their indication of genetic relatedness of the group.

Tracy Betsinger coauthored two papers (“Designating the Deviants: An Exploration of Mortuary Traditions at the Drawsko 1 Cemetery Site” and “3D Drawsko: The Possibilities and Problems with Digitizing the Post-Medieval Crania in Poland”) that were presented at the annual meeting of the Canadian Association for Physical Anthropology in Victoria, British Columbia.

Sallie Han presented a paper entitled “The Chemical Pregnancy: Technology and the Making of a New Reproductive Experience” at a conference on “Mothering and Reproduction” presented by the Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement in Toronto, Canada, October 2012. The paper examines the role of technology in the cultural and social making of women’s reproductive experience. It discusses how the home pregnancy test has affected the experience not only of pregnancy, but also its loss, especially as tests now enable the earlier detection of hormonal pregnancies that might not be physiologically viable

John Relethford was one of several scientists interviewed for a news story for the August 25th issue of Science News. This story, entitled “Tangled Roots: Mingling among Stone Age peoples muddles humans’ evolutionary story,” discusses implications of recent discoveries of ancient DNA for understanding the origin of modern humans and their relationship to earlier human groups.

John Relethford has published the ninth edition of his introductory biological anthropology text, The Human Species: An Introduction to Biological Anthropology, published by McGraw-Hill (2013).

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John Relethford is the author of a new textbook, Human Population Genetics, published by Wiley-Blackwell (2012). This book is an introduction to the study of population genetics, the mathematical basis of evolutionary theory, with specific reference to application to human populations and anthropological questions.

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John Relethford has been appointed to a three-year term on the Editorial Board of American Anthropologist, the flagship journal of the American Anthropological Association.


The New York State Library, Manuscripts and Special Collections, has accepted for its archives the collected papers of William A. Starna (Professor Emeritus, Department of Anthropology, College at Oneonta; Adjunct Professor Emeritus of Geography, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON) and Jack Campisi (formerly adjunct professor, anthropology, College at Oneonta, and Wellesley College). The collection spans the period from 1974 to 2011 and reflects Campisi’s and Starna’s research on and duties as expert witnesses for American Indian land claims, in particular those brought by each of the Iroquois nations in New York State and Wisconsin, and the research for and preparation of petitions submitted by over twenty native communities from throughout the United States for federal acknowledgment as American Indian tribes. In addition, the collection contains materials on Campisi’s and Starna’s historical and legal consultancies related to matters of federal taxation of American Indians and cultural evaluations for environmental damages to native communities as determined by federal courts, and on disputes over treaty rights in the United States and Ontario, Canada.






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