The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Ten Thousand Years of Population Interaction at the Prairie-Woodland Interface in the Upper Midwest and Contiguous Areas of Manitoba and Ontario


Department of Anthropology, Hamline University

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PreContact Minnesota was characterized by significant cultural and environmental diversity. Throughout its 10,000-year history, this region has witnessed the interaction of human populations with their physical and social environments, developing adaptive strategies to effectively utilize the natural resources and navigate relationships with their neighbors. The current research applies a contextual analysis and explores the interaction between social practices and human biology by integrating the results of both a biodistance analysis and a mortuary pattern analysis.

A multivariate discriminant function analysis was conducted on skulls recovered from sites dating from 10,500 – 600 B.P. in Minnesota and surrounding border areas in Ontario, Manitoba, the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Iowa. Forty-one measurements were taken on 380 skulls. The results provide information about the degree of genetic continuity between groups and biological homogeneity/heterogeneity of defined archaeological cultures (i.e. Blackduck) and burial complexes (i.e. Arvilla). Results indicate overall biological continuity between the earlier PaleoAmerican, Archaic, and Initial Woodland groups. Significant biological discontinuity, however, was observed between the Late PreContact Woodland groups in the northern portion of the study region and the more southern horticultural groups. Additionally, the more northern Woodland groups (i.e. Blackduck) are characterized by significant genetic heterogeneity while the southern horticulturalists (i.e. Oneota) are more genetically homogeneous. Mortuary pattern analysis focused on body preparation, body orientation, single/multiple interments, and grave goods.

The results of the biodistance and mortuary analyses indicate different patterns of social integration, network/”alliance” formation, and intraregional constructions of social identity at the community level during the late PreContact period.

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