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

Sex-Based Health Differences During the Transition to Agriculture in Ukraine


1Anthropology, State University of New York at Albany, 2Anthropology, Grand Valley State University

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The Tripolye archaeological culture of Eneolithic Ukraine (5500-2500 BC) was one of the first fully agricultural populations in Europe. The site of Verteba Cave in western Ukraine is one of the few sites to yield human remains associated with the Tripolye culture. In addition to human skeletal material, many ceramic models of human females have been excavated from Verteba Cave. These have been interpreted as being the material remains of a “goddess cult”. Comparatively few male figurines have been found. Female-centric religious practices may have led the Tripolye to preferentially provide women with resources such as protein and nutrient rich foods that led them to be healthier than males. This hypothesis is tested using skeletal material from Verteba Cave. Specifically, enamel hypoplasias, dental caries, periodontal disease, porotic hyperostosis, cribra orbitalia, and stature are compared between the two sexes. Using the multiple indicator approach, we accept the hypothesis that females are healthier than males. This research suggests that the specific religious practices of prehistoric populations in Europe may have resulted in sex-based health differences.

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