Carolyn Freiwald studies bones and teeth to understand what life was like in the past — from questions as big as human migration patterns to what people had for dinner.

Why you should listen

Carolyn Freiwald is an archaeologist who combines the biology and chemistry of bones and teeth to reconstruct ancient diet and migration. When asked the question, "If you had a superpower, what would it be?" her answer is time travel -- and she says archaeology is the next best way to see what peoples' lives were like in the past. Her research projects in Mesoamerica, from Mexico to Honduras, go beyond migration to how people used their environments, from the animals they hunted, to the salt they mined and the tools and ornaments they crafted from bones and shells.

Freiwald's works are found in anthropological journals such as Current Anthropology, Ancient Mesoamerica and the Journal of Archaeological Science and as short stories on her website. She is currently an Associate Professor at the University of Mississippi and can also be found studying the collections of UW-Madison’s Zoological Museum.

Carolyn Freiwald’s TED talk