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

Dental evidence of changes in female social status during the Middle to Late Woodland transition


Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan

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The Middle to Late Woodland transition in the lower Illinois River valley (2000-1100 BP) is well documented both archaeologically and bioarchaeologically. Previous studies have generally focused on a single health variable within a given sample, and illustrate the biologically deleterious consequences of the increasing dependence on agriculture for local populations. Importantly, recent models of Woodland social organization have posited a shift in the economic power of females over the course of the transition, as mortuary treatments become more egalitarian and household architecture reflects a shift from communal long houses to nuclear domiciles. The biological import of this change in female social status has yet to be investigated.

Here I test of the hypothesis that the increasing economic power of Late Woodland females had significant, skeletally visible health consequences. Data were collected on four dental health indicators (caries, linear enamel hypoplasias, abscesses and antemortem tooth loss), for a sample of 43 Middle Woodland and 42 Late Woodland individuals, controlled to balance age structure, sex and skeletal completion. In contrast to previous research, this study examines multiple dental health indicators simultaneously while testing the bioarchaeological significance of changes in Woodland social organization. Statistical tests reveal significant trends in multifactoral aspects of dental health, which address the relationship between increases in female economic power and skeletal indicators of dental health during the Middle to Late Woodland transition.

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