Ted Pedas “Science at Sea

Dr. Rebecca Storey

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[Dr.Rebecca Storey] Dr. Rebecca Storey, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Houston, has been studying the human skeletons from the Pre-Columbian high civilizations of Mesoamerica for 18 years and is considered one of the experts for this part of the world.

She received her bachelor's degree from Smith College, her master's degree from Columbia University, and her Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University, all in Anthropology. Trained as both a biological anthropologist and archaeologist, Dr. Storey has done research in Florida, Mexico, Honduras, and Belize. Her research involves the study of human skeletons that have been excavated at various sites, to learn about what life was like for the people, what it was like to live in that place and time. Skeletons provide information about health and lifestyle that is not available from other kinds of archaeological data.

For the last 15 years, she has been in charge of the study of the over 600 skeletons excavated at the Classic Maya site of Copan, Honduras. This is the largest skeletal collection presently available for the Classic Maya, and her research should shed much light on the intriguing collapse of the Copan civilization and abandonment of the site around A.D. 1000. Such information should help archaeologists better understand the mystery of the "Classic Maya Collapse." She is also currently working on the human skeletons from the Maya site of K'axob in Belize. K'axob in Belize. K'axob is an interesting site, because while much smaller than Copan or Tikal, it represents some of the earliest flowering of the Maya civilization.

Recently, Dr. Storey and her Maya skeletons have been part of a collaborative study among historians, demographers, economists and biological anthropologists to look at the history of human health and nutrition in this hemisphere from the Pre-Columbian to the beginning of the 20th century. The results will be published in a book that will be called The Backbone of History, which is intended to inform interested readers about what can be learned about the quality of life in the past from human skeletons.

In addition to teaching at the University of Houston for 14 years, where she has been awarded the Teaching Excellence Award from her college, Dr. Storey also was a Fulbright professor in Honduras for one year, doing teaching and research. The skeletal project at Copan has attracted a lot of interest, and Dr. Storey has been featured in "The Search for Ancient Americans" (broadcast on both PBS and the Discovery Channel), in several segments of "Out of the Past: An Introduction to Archaeology" series broadcast on both PBS and The Learning Channel, and in the October 1989 National Geographic.

Dr. Storey has been fascinated by the pyramids of Mesoamerica and the Classic Maya civilization since childhood. Being part of the ongoing archaeological study of these past peoples is a dream come true. The goal of her research is to stress the humanity of these past civilizations, by talking about the actual people who lived in them and what their lives were like. Hopefully, the research on the Copan skeletons will be published in a book soon.

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