Jennifer Muller

Jennifer Muller

Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology
Faculty, School of Humanities and Sciences

Specialty:Bioarchaeology and forensic anthropology, trauma-related morbidity and mortality, health disparities
Phone:(607) 274-3327
Office:G128 Gannett Center
Ithaca, NY 14850



I am a biological anthropologist whose primary focus is on the interpretation of skeletal remains.  In particular, I am interested in the interplay between biology and culture, using skeletal analyses as the empirical evidence of this relationship in past human populations. 


Rather than focusing on a specific geographic area, my research has concentrated on the skeletal biologies of the poor and disenfranchised.  Cultural factors, including political and economic influences, lead to inequalities among certain groups.  This inequality may impact human biology to the same extent that the physical environment does.  In fact, these forces may marginalize a particular group to a specific physical environment.  These unequal power structures influences the types of stressors developed and how they ultimately lead to disparities in biological health.  In order to assess the stressors, including the cultural and environmental factors that may create them, archival documents must be researched along with the osteological remains.  By critically examining archival data, we may understand how the specific conditions of poverty developed for a population in a specific location. 


I received my PhD from the University at Buffalo in 2006.  My dissertation entitled, Trauma as a Biological Consequence of Inequality: A Biocultural Analysis of the Skeletal Remains of Washington DC’s African American Poor, focuses on the analysis of accidental and violent trauma in the W. Montague Cobb Skeletal Collection, housed at Howard University.  The Cobb Collection consists of remains from the poorest members of the African American community of Washington DC.  They undoubtedly encountered political and social discrimination based on racism and their poverty level.  The politics of racism restricted Blacks to the most menial and physically demanding occupational positions.  Interpretation of the fracture frequency and patterning indicates a high level of fractures and dislocations associated with both accidental trauma and interpersonal violence.     


During the summer 2010, I analyzed the remains from the Newburgh Colored Burial Ground (1830-1870).   This sample includes the remains of 99 individuals; many represent manumitted African Americans. This cemetery was rediscovered when a courthouse was renovated in Newburgh, New York.  I analyzed the skeletal remains, which include infants and children, for skeletal markers of activity-related stress, nutritional deficiencies, trauma, and indications of pathological conditions and diseases.  Such samples are rare and provide a unique window into the particular biological stressors associated with the transition from enslaved peoples to freedmen, while also contributing to the broader understanding of the biological consequences of poverty and discrimination.   



Courses Taught:


ANTH 10300 Introduction to Biological Anthropology

ANTH 21100 Introduction to Primates

ANTH 25000 Human Variation

ANTH 30600 Biological Anthropology Methods and Techniques

ANTH 37700 Biology of Poverty

ANTH 38400 Forensic Anthropology

ANTH 38700 Forensic Science

ANTH 39009 Paleopathology






School of Humanities and Sciences  ·  201 Muller Center  ·  Ithaca College  ·  Ithaca, NY 14850  ·  (607) 274-3102  ·  Full Directory Listing