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

The Effect Of Sex and Biological Stress on The Skeletal Expression of Infectious Disease During The Reproductive Years


Department of Anthropology, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

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Infectious disease susceptibility may be affected by various demographic factors, including age, sex and pre-existing stress. This project addresses the permanence of disease susceptibility in two late prehistoric skeletal samples from west-central Illinois, Norris Farms (1275-1425 AD) and Orendorf (1150-1250 AD). Previously recorded demographic and pathological data from the Orendorf and Norris Farms 36 cemetery samples were compiled and analyzed for this study. These collections share many similarities, including geographic location, date range, disease patterns and warfare patterns and, therefore, a combined sample of these two collections is justified.

Two questions are of interest: 1) Are males or females in the Orendorf and Norris Farms 36 cemetery skeletal samples more likely to suffer from an infectious disease, specifically tuberculosis and/or treponematosis, during the reproductive years? And 2) is an individual in his/her reproductive years more likely to exhibit evidence of an infectious disease after experiencing a childhood stress as indicated by lesions of the skull or linear enamel hypoplasia?

A total of 75 skeletons, 36 male and 39 female were available for study. Odds ratios and logistic regression were used to address both research questions. The results of the analyses indicated that there were no statistically significant sex differences in infectious disease during the reproductive years, nor were there any associations between pre-existing childhood stress and infectious disease presence. Future studies with larger samples may illuminate the potential correlations between childhood conditions and the later susceptibility of surviving adults to infectious diseases.

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