Elizabeth Weiss

Elizabeth Weiss

Professor, Anthropology


What research questions currently preoccupy you?

Currently, I am doing work on skeletal traits, such as osteoarthritis, muscle markers, and stress fractures. My research questions mainly surround whether these traits are related to activity or biological factors.

What personal factors contributed to your study of anthropology?

My love of anatomy, which started for me as a child. I have always been fascinated with the skeleton and how similarities and differences between different animals help us to understand their lives. I also was not raised in a religious home and, thus, evolution was a way for me to understand the world around me. I think making connections between humans and the rest of the natural world has been key to the way I view others (both animals and humans).

What has been most challenging in your research of skeletal remains?

My main area of focus has been on bones of past peoples with an emphasis on Amerindian populations. Laws regulating reburial and repatriation of remains have been challenging from two perspectives; the very dichotomous view of the treatment of burial remains (Religion vs. Scientific arguments). And, academics who support non-scientific perspectives and have vilified those who do not stand with them.

How has your position in SJSU contributed to your research of skeletal remains?

At SJSU, we have the good fortune of curating a large skeletal collection which has been the center of my research.

One book that changed your life (or research) and why:

Lucy: The Beginnings of Human Kind by D.C. Johanson. Because it focused attention on the importance of bipedality in order to understand humans. Thus, I fell in love with skeletal perspectives of biomechanics. The New Know-Nothings by Morton Hunt because the author viewed very controversial topics from a clear scientific rationale perspective.

A website/journal/newspaper (in your field?) you follow without fail:

American Journal of Physical Anthropology

Advice you’d give to newer faculty or students:

If you love to read, write, and spend lots of time alone, a life as a physical anthropologist is for you.

RSCA Accomplishments

My book: Paleopathology is Perspective: Bone Health and Disease through Time (2014)

My presentations at the Milpitas Library on Evolutionary Baggage that brought skeletal analyses to a wider audience.