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


The social structuring of stress in contact-era Spanish Florida: a bioarchaeological case study from Santa Catalina de Guale, St. Catherines Island, Georgia

LAUREN A. WINKLER1, CLARK S. LARSEN1, VICTOR THOMPSON1, PAUL W. SCIULLI1 and DALE L. HUTCHINSON2.

1Anthropology, Ohio State University, 2Anthropology, University of North Carolina

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Skeletal biology offers a potential wealth of information about human social behavior, especially in regard to inequality and how differences in access to food and other resources are expressed in stress and wellbeing in past societies. This paper explores the relationship between stress and social status at Mission Santa Catalina de Guale (n = 421), a key mission outpost located on St. Catherines Island, Georgia (ca. A.D. 1600-1680). We test the hypothesis that relative position of skeletal remains located closest to the ritual nucleus of the church (the altar) reflects higher social position in the community, and hence, greater access to resources and better living circumstances. To test this hypothesis, we undertook GIS-based analysis of location of dental caries and linear enamel hypoplasias as indicators of dietary quality, nutritional inference, and generalized stress. Status rank was identified on the basis of elaborateness of grave inclusions (e.g., presence of glass beads) and burial treatment (e.g., inclusion in coffin). There was no association between hypoplasia and location of grave or burial treatment (Fisher’s Exact test, p>0.05). However, individuals interred closest to the altar were less carious than individuals interred furthest from the altar (χ2, p<0.05). This study suggests that individuals buried closer to the altar had a higher-quality diet and greater access to resources than those buried further from the altar. These results strongly suggest clear social distinctions in health and wellbeing in this colonial setting of North America.

This study was supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation and The Ohio State University.

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