The 89th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2020)

A comparative perspective on childhood stress and survivorship among Inner Asian populations of the Iron Age


1Biological Sciences, Western Michigan University, 2Institute of Intercultural and Anthropological Studies, Western Michigan University

April 16, 2020 , Diamond 10 Add to calendar

Inner Asia has long been home to populations that varied in their modes of subsistence and in their cultural and biological trajectories. Recent studies have demonstrated that dietary regimes were varied depending on factors such as local resources and socio-economic characteristics. Discrete dietary strategies may be expected to have influenced health and well-being of these populations, particularly during the sensitive period of growth during childhood, and subsequently influenced survivorship into adulthood.

Enamel hypoplasia (EH) and cribra orbitalia (CO) data were analyzed from five Iron Age sites (c. 1200 BC-AD 370) to explore the association between multiple markers of stress within samples that are relatively contemporaneous, yet distinct in environment and subsistence. These include the pastoral sites Heigouliang (n=43) and Nileke (n=47) of Xinjiang, mixed-agropastoral Mongolia site of Egiin Gol (n=24), and agrarian Inner Mongolia sites of Lamadong (n=100) and Tuchengzi (n=45).

The EH and CO lesions only co-occur within the Egiin Gol (15.4%) and Tuchengzi (7.4%) adult samples. These two sites also demonstrate the highest rates of both markers in inter-site comparisons. Egiin Gol has significantly high rates of EH in the adult sample (Fisher’s exact, p<0.001), female adult sample (p=0.001), and total sample of subadults and adults (p<0.001), as well as highest CO rate among the male adult samples (p=0.014). Tuchengzi female adult samples have elevated rates of EH (p<0.001) and CO (p=0.030). Current findings suggest that multiple factors such as occupation or status, and diet, likely influenced survivorship rates when comparisons are made across age-cohorts and site locations.

JE funding: Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Abroad program and University of California Pacific Rim Award. MM funding: Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research and (CAORC) Smithsonian Institution. 

Slides/Poster (pdf)