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

Quantifying morbidity and quality of life in the Prehispanic Southwest


Department of Anthropology, The Field Museum

Friday 9:30-9:45, Parlors Add to calendar

This study explores the lived experience in prehistoric Southwestern communities through the quantification of ill health and differential health. While mortality and fertility have profound demographic consequences on small populations, the social and economic costs of nonfatal conditions are crucial aspects of quality of life and probably of the duration of a community. As recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO), departure from good health in the short or long term comprises a substantial portion of the burden of disease. Disability Weights, one of the metrics developed by the WHO Global Burden of Disease Study, are used here to quantify the burden of injuries and illnesses documented in the skeletal and paleoparasitological records in Southwestern bioarchaeology.

Quantification of the burden of nonfatal and chronic conditions including advanced osteoarthritis, nutrient deficiencies, tuberculosis, non-venereal treponematosis, parasitism, and the sequelae of accidental and intentional traumatic injuries reported in skeletal assemblages from San Cristobal, Hawikku, Arroyo Hondo, Canyon de Chelly, Ridges Basin, and other sites moves beyond the paleopathology prevalence data and offers a more grounded perspective on the quality of life between birth and death in these communities, and perhaps a better understanding of the range of the social and biological forces stimulating small and large scale migrations in this region.

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