James Wood

James Wood

Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Demography
James Wood

Curriculum Vitae


B.A., Columbia University, New York, 1971
M.A., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 1975
Ph.D., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 1980

Professional Bio

Professional Bio

Areas of Specialization:

Biodemography, historical demography, the population ecology of subsistence-level farming systems, Northern Scotland

Research Activities and Interests:

Professor Wood’s research spans several areas of human population biology, primarily the biodemography of human mortality and fertility, historical demography and land-use changes, and the population ecology of subsistence farming.  Secondary interests include the demographic effects of infectious disease and food shortages (including famine), statistical paleodemography / paleoepidemiology, and the historical epidemiology of the fourteenth-century Black Death.  He has done fieldwork on the demography and ecology of several traditional farming communities, ranging from living shifting cultivators in highland Papua New Guinea, medieval peasants in Denmark (known mostly through their skeletons), and subsistence farmers in the Orkney Islands of far northern Scotland.  Orkney has been Prof. Wood’s principal research focus for the past decade, and he currently leads a multidisciplinary project there that combines ethnographic methods, historical demography, historical archaeology, and landscape ecology to reconstruct the transition from preindustrial to modern farming and its demographic and environmental drivers.  In addition to Anthropology, Prof. Wood is affiliated with Penn State’s Population Research Institute and the Inter-College Program on Natural Resources, Energy, and the Environment.

Courses Taught:

  • ANTH 408  Anthropological Demography
  • ANTH 412  Settlement Demography
  • ANTH 462  Biometry of Human Reproduction
  • ANTH 497  Paleodemography
  • ANTH 509  Research Design in Anthropological Fieldwork
  • ANTH 566  Infectious Diseases in Anthropological Populations
  • ANTH 575  Population, Food, and Traditional Agriculture

Selected Recent Publications:

  • Wood, J.W. 1992. Dynamics of Human Reproduction: Biology, Biometry, Demography. Aldine de Gruyter Publishers, Hawthorne, N.Y. (recipient of the W.W. Howells Award for Outstanding Book in Biological Anthropology, 1995)
  • Wood, J.W., G.R. Milner, H.C. Harpending, and K.M. Weiss. 1992. The osteological paradox: Problems of inferring prehistoric health from skeletal samples. Current Anthropology 33:343-370.
  • Wood, J.W. 1998. A theory of preindustrial population dynamics: Demography, economy, and well-being in Malthusian systems.Current Anthropology 39:99-135.
  • Wood, J.W., and S.N. DeWitte-Aviña. 2003. Was the Black Death yersinial plague? The Lancet Infectious Diseases 3:327-328.
  • Wood, J.W., R.J. Ferrell, and S.N. DeWitte-Aviña. 2003. The temporal dynamics of the fourteenth-century Black Death: New evidence from ecclesiastical records. Human Biology 75:427-448.
  • Milner, G.R., J.W. Wood, and J.L. Boldsen. 2008. Advances in paleodemography. Pp. 561-600 in Katzenber, M.A., and S.R. Saunders (eds.), Biological Anthropology of the Human Skeleton. New York: Wiley-Liss.
  • DeWitte, S.N., and J.W. Wood. 2008. Selectivity of Black Death mortality with respect to preexisting health. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105:1436-41.
  • Wood, J.W. (in preparation) Population, Food, and Traditional Farming (book manuscript).