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

Health and Disease in Pre-Columbian Amazon Societies: Everyday Life in the Teeth and Bones of Volta Grande of the Xingu River, Brazil


1Graduate Program in Anthropology, UFPA, 2Scientia Scientific Consulting

April 17, 2020 28, Platinum Ballroom Add to calendar

The vast Amazon territory has been occupied for millennia by human groups with different cultures, economies, and socio-environmental relations. Poor preservation of bones and teeth in the archaeological context of rainforests is well known and as a result there are few studies analyzing skeletal material from most of these areas. However, in some specific contexts preservation does occur and this material is helpful in investigating health status and aspects of socio-ecologic practices. In this research, 12 adult burials recovered from five archeological sites located along the middle Xingu River, Volta Grande region, Pará, Brazil, were investigated. The burials were located in or below anthropogenic soil (Amazonia dark earth), associated to occupations dated to the last millennium before European contact. Studies of the material culture of these sites point to a long history of occupation, and a wide variety of styles of ceramic material in the anthropogenic soil. The poor preservation hampered the identification of age and sex of all individuals. Teeth analysis shows a high prevalence of tartar, wear of the occlusal surfaces, cavities, and tooth loss during life, compatible with horticultural practices. In the bones, abscess and periodontitis were identified. Despite the difficulties, this is one of the first studies of oral health of pre-contact populations in this area of the Amazon basin.

Research partially funded by CAPES/Brazil

Slides/Poster (pdf)