The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2015)


Early Mississippian Health: Skeletal evidence from the East St. Louis Mound Center

KATHERINE MCDONALD1, LENNA NASH1 and AIMEE CARBAUGH1,2.

1Illinois State Archaeological Survey, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

March 26, 2015 , Gateway Ballroom 3 Add to calendar

Maize agriculture is one of the hallmarks of Mississippian culture. Maize rapidly became incorporated into the diet, economy, and ideology of people inhabiting the American Bottom region in AD 1050. This was a time of great change characterized by substantial population movements into and out of Cahokia, the consolidation of large populations centered at administrative mound centers such as Cahokia and East St. Louis. This poster investigates the role that maize reliance and population density played in the health of the inhabitants of the East St. Louis Mound Center.

The East St. Louis Mound (ESTL) Center, located 7 km to the east of Cahokia, is one of the largest Early Mississippian administrative centers in the region, second only to Cahokia. Recent excavations by ISAS prior to construction of the New Mississippi River Bridge identified burials and isolated human elements in mound, cemetery, and habitation contexts across this site. The occupation of ESTL spanned only a few generations, and the human remains from ESTL provide a unique opportunity to evaluate the effect of rapid urbanization on the health of the site’s occupants. General indications of infection and stress, including periostitis, porotic hyperostosis, and linear enamel hypoplasias, were fairly common in the ESTL population. Skeletal evidence for tuberculosis and treponematosis were also identified. Dental pathologies, including caries formation and antemortem tooth loss were common and are consistent with a diet heavily dependent upon maize. The skeletal and dental pathologies observed in the ESTL provide new information on Early Mississippian health and diet.