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

The Health and Status of Children from the Middle and Late Mississippian Periods in the Tennessee


Department of Anthropology, Univeristy of Tennesse, Knoxville

Thursday 11:00-11:15, 200ABC Add to calendar

This research examines the visibility of the effects of hypothesized population disruption from the Middle Cumberland “Vacant Quarter” on eastern Tennessee Mississippians during the Middle and Late Mississippian periods. Previous analyses on archaeological sites have indicated increased conflict toward the Late Mississippian in eastern Tennessee. Skeletal studies demonstrating declining health status and increased trauma among adults have reflected this archaeological evidence. Unlike previous research, this study analyzes mortuary practices and biological health of children, using Mississippian archaeological sites throughout eastern and central Tennessee. The skeletal remains of children are the most effective way to assess a past population’s overall health, as children are more susceptible than adults to environmental stressors, especially nutritional stress.

Overall, children from the Middle Cumberland and eastern Tennessee show few morphological differences. As a whole, there is no significant difference in estimated stature, body mass estimations, robusticity, or various skeletal measurements between the two regional groups. When divided into age categories—fetal-birth, 1-4 years of age, 5-10 years of age, and 11-17 years of age—the two regional populations are still statistically similar except in the 1-4 years of age group. Within this age category, maximum femoral length and femoral midshaft measurements are significantly different, with taller statures and greater robusticity in the Middle Cumberland sample. These femoral dimensions are indicative of differences in activity level, as well as health status. Further analysis will compare nonmetric traits associated with stress and overall health between the two groups, and will increase sample sizes to improve statistical power.

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