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

Apples, oranges, and incremental lines: a fresh look at enamel formation and long bone growth in prehistoric Illinois


Anthropology, Indiana University

Friday 4:00-4:15, Ballroom A Add to calendar

The Schild Cemetery in west-central Illinois provides a large, well-preserved Middle Mississippian skeletal series from the rural hinterlands of Cahokia, the largest prehistoric community in North America. Prior studies have documented stress markers, growth and stature during the transition to maize agriculture in the theoretical context of processual archaeology, quantified maize consumption using stable isotopes and explored specific nutritional deficiencies. Gendered activity patterns are reflected in cross-sectional geometry, arthritis and enthesiopathies. Many young adults in this series suffered chronic orthopedic conditions that would have compromised their participation in some activities.

This paper examines Harris Lines in the tibiae and pronounced Striae of Retzius in the molar enamel of Schild adults 20 to 35 years in the context of this prior research. These stress markers are not correlated with one another or with adult stature, a finding that replicates other research and points to differing mechanism of growth disruption. More surprising is the failure of these two stress markers to demonstrate history of elevated stress during childhood and adolescence in persons with chronic orthopedic conditions who died as young adults. This finding is examined in two theoretical contexts. The frailty hypothesis is a poor fit for this result, perhaps because both the underlying causes of orthopedic conditions and of these two stress markers are heterogeneous. In contrast, the emerging interdisciplinary focus on disability studies provides a context in which Mississippian society can be viewed as well-integrated and supportive of disabled persons.

Portions of this research were supported by NSF BNS 77-25310.

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