The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

A comparative study of treponemal disease in the tibiae of two south Florida archaeological populations: Fort Center (8GL12) and Highland Beach (8PB11)


1Anthropology, Florida Atlantic University, 2History, Florida International University

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Research into bioarchaeology and paleopathology allows for inference testing pertaining to population health and the relationship between disease and group status. The purpose of this study was an assessment and comparison of pathological tibiae from two Woodland populations from south Florida: Fort Center (8GL12) and Highland Beach (8PB11). These skeletal samples are from an inland site and a coastal site, respectively, and appear to represent two different social statuses, allowing for a comparative test of disease prevalence. For this study, we measured the frequency of treponemal disease using macroscopic observations of presence, absence, and the severity of pathological expression, including periosteal lesions, osteomyelitis, and bowing in dry tibiae. Importantly, treponemal disease is easily recognizable on the tibia, allowing for such comparative analysis of differential health patterns between samples of different social status.

The hypothesis for this research posited that there is an association and dependence between group status, group location, and incidence of infection, in this case, treponemal disease. The results provide support for this hypothesis, demonstrating that a coastal and relatively lower status sample had a higher prevalence of treponemal infection than an inland and higher status sample. In sum, we found a disease incidence frequency of 0.62 in the Highland Beach sample, compared to 0.15 in the Fort Center sample.

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