Canary Institute of Bioanthropology

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Archaeological Museum of Tenerife

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The recent introduction of new methods, techniques and research lines in bioanthropology and archaeology favors that their integrating study results in a relevant field for the analysis of past populations, permitting the reconstruction of their lives from their human remains, artifacts and environment. For this reason, this project constitutes a good opportunity to carry out these actions and to expose them in the most prestigious international phori and, at the same time, they contribute to the expansion and improvement of the research lines of the Instituto Canario de Bioantropología and Museo Arqueológico de Tenerife (both belonging to the Organismo Autónomo de Museos y Centros of the Cabildo de Tenerife).


From a bioanthropological perspective.

Genetics (aDNA): the goals are the following:

  • Study of diseases derived of inbreeding, like congenital malformations and anomalies and other pathology showing a mixed standard (environmental-genetic).
  • Systematic research of contact diseases between aboriginal population – European population (tuberculosis, syphilis, typhus, plague) in the moment of the conquest and later.
  • Analysis of probable zoonoses (diseases transmitted from animal to human being) in the past that played a decisive role in the development of the populations, mainly in islands.

Pathology (skeletal, mummified soft tissues, dental and parasitology): it is an essential instrument for the study of archaeological populations and its combination with archaeological data from different places offer a very valuable information on different parameters not only on those populations but, equally important, on nature, evolution, and, in some circumstances, the future behavior of that specific pathology. These parameters include: natural history of the disease, changes in the age of debut of several pathologies, differential sexual prevalence, biological adaptation, pathology of physical activity, contact diseases aboriginal-European (mainly in infectious diseases with local or epidemic character).

Radiology: besides macro and microscopic analyses, the radiological study is fundamental for understanding the development of the disease. It is divided in two levels: plain radiography (basic to prove skeletal pathology and indispensable step for the research of complete mummies and mummified remains) and computed axial tomography (CAT scan – preserving the integrity of these valuable specimens and offering a vital information on details that are not observable with plain radiography).

Reconstruction of diet and environmental studies: these studies permit to know the usual food and the use of the environment by the aboriginal population. The combination with paleonutritional analyses (through the observation of markers and measurements of metabolic stress) is fundamental for the reconstruction of life of past populations.

Paleodemography: to understand the evolutional standard of a population, its potential increase and expansion, the capacity to occupy the territory and to make use of the resources, and to adapt to the environment, specially in such a limited territory like an island with the size of Tenerife, it is absolutely necessary to study the life tables and the demographic profiles of that population that include the following parameters: life expectancy at birth, life expectancy at the 15 years (basic to know the future number of old people), survivors entering the next interval of 5 years, perinatal and infantile mortality, approximated size of the population, population density, and crude mortality rate. Temporary demographic fuctuation and migration are also important.

Of course, everything in the right chronological context.


From an archaeological perspective, the research is focused on different sites, specially related to funerary places included in this research program (in different geographic areas of the island, at different altitudes and with different environment), deeply documented, reviewed and dated, which allow to establish the different ways of life in Tenerife in a chronological sequence.

  • Bibliographical documentation. This work is fundamental in order to compare the results of this project with the existing data. This facilitates the creation of new lines of research in those fields that are not clear yet.
  • Inventory and comparative study of the archaeological materials (anthropological and material elements) belonging to every place.
  • Study of the archaeological material associated to funerary places. These places are located at different environmental levels and the goal is to get a very representative sample based in the coexistence of anthropological and archaeological remains that can be analyzed from different perspectives. The sites selected for this study are those that have been excavated with archaeological methodology and have been not completely analyzed, avoiding the material out of context or not well documented. On the other hand, those funerary sites where anthropogenic or natural mummification are proved and those with skeletal remains only will be included too in order to establish the differences between the environmental characteristics of the sites and the possible treatments used there.