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

Physiological stress in a multi-ethnic cemetery population from colonial Campeche, Mexico


Facultad de Ciencias Antropológicas, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán

Saturday 9:00-9:15, Galleria North Add to calendar

The cemetery associated to the early colonial church in Campeche (México) harbored the skeletal remains of a heterogeneous community formed by natives, mestizos, Europeans and Africans, some being locals, others foreign-born. This early colonial multi-ethnic society survived the harshness of famine and epidemics that made living conditions precarious. The present work infers impact of stress on health and living conditions within this multi-ethnic society. Updated macroscopic and chemical analyses of stress and pathological markers in the 150 individuals from the graveyard indicates differential exposure to developmental stress between locals and foreigners, with foreign Africans showing significantly less linear enamel hypoplasia than locally-born Africans, natives or mestizos. Conversely, periostitis and osteomyelitis provide a different scenario, with all foreign Africans showing bony reactions, in comparison with 75% of the locally-born Africans and 45% to 50% in natives and mestizos. However, the reduced number of Africans suitable for skeletal analyses implies caution. The Africans were probably employed in the Spaniards’ households, while natives and mestizos were from a more heterogeneous social background. Nevertheless, with the exception of linear enamel hypoplasia, the skeletal and chemical information does not discriminate between Africans and the indigenous population. The different amount of LEH in foreign-born Africans is likely the result of the forced selection that took place in their own native lands before being carried to the Americas. For the rest, once the individuals had eventually settled down in Campeche, they were exposed to similar external pressure and faced similarly difficult living conditions despite their social role.

CONACyT CB 2005 50091 A.C. and CONACyT CB 2005 49982 V.T.

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