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

Were the sacrifices in Mound 72 at Cahokia nonlocal? A new perspective from the dentition


Anthropology Department, Medical Sciences Program, Indiana University, Bloomington

Thursday All day, Park Concourse Add to calendar

Interpretations of Mound 72 at the Cahokia site have relied heavily on the treatment and organization of burials within the mound. Disparity in burial goods and burial context indicates that a marked degree of social inequality existed between individuals buried in Mound 72. This has led researchers to organize and group the various burial features in a hierarchical manner. Previous skeletal analyses demonstrate an appreciable level of biosocial difference between these groupings. Most notably, isotopic and dental morphological studies suggest that those prescribed to the sacrifice category were nonlocal to Cahokia proper. This conclusion has been integrated into the way we currently view not only the activities surrounding the construction of Mound 72, but also the larger role Cahokia played in early Mississippian sociopolitical dynamics.

This study aimed at reinvestigating biological variation within Mound 72 using updated data collection standards for dental morphological traits, as well as odontometrics. Results from both indicators suggest that, phenotypically, the sacrifice group is very similar to the high- and mid-status burials. The group designated as the lowest status, Feature 229-lower, was dissimilar to all others in Mound 72. Based on this finding it is suggested that the sacrifices were likely drawn from the Cahokia population, whereas individuals in Feature 229-lower were nonlocal to the area. This conclusion is consistent with the aberrant burial context associated with Feature 229 and highlights the need for some aspects of Mound 72 to be reconsidered.

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