Demographic Anthropology and Human Variation

I earned a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Massachusetts, at Amherst, in 1979, and currently serve as professor and chair of the Anthropology Department at Kent State University. I have worked in eastern North American prehistory and osteology, human ergonomics, forensic sciences, primate and human evolution, and historic demography and population structure. I teach courses in demographic anthropology, statistics, and physical anthropology.

Richard S. Meindl

Professor and Chair

 Department of Anthropology


Graduate Faculty in the School of Biomedical Sciences

Lowry Hall

Kent State University

Kent, Oh 44242


Aging and Sexing Techniques

In the biological anthropology laboratories at Kent State, students and faculty have worked to refine various methods for determining the age and sex of adult skeletal remains. These methods have proved useful in both forensic and paleodemographic contexts. Aging techniques developed here are based on the examination of hard tissues, and include ectocranial suture closure, cortical and trabecular bone involution, changes in the pubic symphysis and the auricular surface of the ilium, and variations in the opacity of dental root sections. 

(see, "Recent advances in method and theory in paleodemography," Richard Meindl and Katherine Russell, Annual Review of Anthropology, 27:375-399 )

Cranial suture sites  used in skeletal aging.

Three burials from a late archaic site in Kentucky. (Photo: from excavation, 1938, University of Kentucky, Museum of Anthropology)


My primary research is the demographic structures of extinct societies, which includes their birth, death, and intrinsic growth rates. Paleodemography is perhaps the most multi-disciplinary field in anthropology. It combines physical anthropology, demography, archaeology, and even ethnography of living societies. I have collaborated with colleagues at Cleveland State University, Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (México), Università di Roma "La Sapienza" (Italy), and here at Kent State to estimate the vital rates of what were once living populations on the basis of the cemeteries they left behind. 

(see, Archaic Transitions in Ohio and Kentucky Prehistory, Olaf Prufer, Sara Pedde, and Richard Meindl, eds., Kent State University Press)

Historic Demography

My interests in the demographic evolution of the human species started with projects which analyzed historic registers, bills of mortality, censuses, and other archival records. Historic demography brings an important dimension to the study of human biology: accurately recorded vital events permit the scientific observation of human populations spanning many generations. 

(see, "Components of longevity: developmental and genetic responses to differential childhood mortality," Richard Meindl, Social Science and Medicine, 16:165-174)


"The Birthroom in Eucharius Rösslin's

 Der Swantern Frawen und Hebammen Rosegarten"

 1513, in Rowland, 1981

Population Genetics

The forces of evolution which brought about the emergence of humans during the last few million years are those same forces which have acted to create genetic variations within our species today. Anthropologists attempt to answer such questions as: "Why do different geographic populations have their own unique combinations and frequencies of genes?" This photo shows a young girl undergoing regular therapy for what is the most common genetic recessive disease in populations of European descent-cystic fibrosis. 

(see, "Hypothesis: A selective advantage for cystic fibrosis heterozygotes, Richard Meindl, American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 74:39-45)

Photo from Newsweek.

Taking measurements in a cockpit  accommodation study.

Human Ergonomics

People differ from each other in their body sizes and limb proportions as well. Students and faculty at Kent State work with the Human Factors Group at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio in the applied field of ergonomics. We have conducted statistical analyses on a large data base of American military flyers to assess workstation accommodation. 

(see, "A multivariate method for crew station design", Richard Meindl, Jeffrey Hudson, and Gregory Zehner. AL-TR-1993-0054, Air Force Materiel Command, WPAFB, OH 45433)

Mexico City

I frequently travel to Mexico City to present research to the professional anthropological organizations of Latin America, to conduct studies with my colleagues using the vast Mexican osteological and archaeological collections, and to teach "Diplomado" courses, which are brief two-week guest-lecture series. Pictured here is the canal network at Xochimilco at the southern end of the city. This area is in fact a remnant of the 500-year-old agricultural system of the ancient Aztec capital.

Xochimilco canal. Photo by R.S. Meindl.


Link to my CV