Assessment of Paleonutrition from Skeletal Remains

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... Floral and faunal remains typically are recovered in contexts where food is processed and prepared (e.g., the hearth or kitchen floor) and discarded (e.g., middens and fill). To exzmine consumption, archaeologists should focus on data that provide direct evidence of consumption, such as skeletal analysis (e.g., Brown, 1981; Bumsted, 1985; DeNiro, 1987; Larsen, 1987; Pate, 1994; Price, ...
... Earlier populations showed minimal health problems, whereas populations during the Late Intermediate Period demonstrated health differences between elites and commoners, with nonelites exhibiting more dietary stress (Verano, 1992). In contrast, a variety of chemical studies among complex societies in the Eastern Woodlands suggests that, at some sites, status did not greatly affect diet (Brown and Blakely, 1985; Blakely and Beck, 1981; Lambert et al., 1979). At the Dallas site in Tennessee, however, elite diet apparently was more balanced and included more iron and protein than commoner diet (Hatch and Geidel, 1985). ...
In complex societies individuals from distinct social, economic, gender, or age groups often consume different foods because of various economic, political, and ideological factors. The food system not only involves what is consumed but includes the labor and technology that goes into the production and preparation of food as well as how certain foods are distributed and eventually discarded. Food systems within and among complex societies are thus tightly intertwined with social differentiation and the political economy and participate in defining and maintaining differential social relations.
A seal assembly is described comprising a base ring having an inner shoulder, an outer shoulder and an annular recess therebetween on its upper surface, a first energizing ring having a downwardly facing inner shoulder facing the inner base ring shoulder, a downwardly extending projection engaging in the annular recess and spaced from the bottom thereof and upper outwardly extending lugs with upper tapered surfaces tapering downwardly and outwardly, a second energizing ring surrounding the downwardly extending projection on the first energizing ring and having upwardly facing slots to receive the lugs, a lower surface facing the outer base ring shoulder and an upper tapered surface tapering outwardly and downwardly, an inner seal ring within the energizing ring projection and being between the inner base ring shoulder and the shoulder on the first energizing ring, and an outer seal ring surrounding the energizing ring projection and being between the outer base ring shoulder and the shoulder on the second energizing ring.
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Between 1960 and 1964 fieldwork for the Tehuacán Archaeological and Botanical Project was conducted in the Tehuacán Valley of southern Puebla, Mexico. This volume presents details regarding the archaeological excavations and valley-wide reconnaissance conducted in the valley. In this volume the data presented in Volumes 1-4 are put in context. By description and interpretation, the excavation and reconnaissance findings are interrelated to reconstruct the culture history and processes of culture change through time within the valley.
Plants metabolize carbon dioxide photosynthetically either through a 3-carbon (Calvin) or 4-carbon pathway. Most plants are of the C-3 type; C-4 plants are primarily grasses adapted to hot, arid environments. Since C-4 plants have a higher 13C/12C ratio than C-3 plants, animals and humans with a significant C-4 plant food-intake will have higher 13C/12C ratios as well. Maize is a C-4 plant, hence maize cultivators living in predominantly C-3 plant environments should show significant isotopic differences from local hunter-gatherers in their skeletal remains; the importance of maize in their diet should also be measurable. The practicability of this method is demonstrated for New York State archaeological materials and wider implications are mentioned.
This paper presents an analysis of stature of the prehistoric population from the Maya site of Tikal, Guatemala. From this analysis, based on 55 skeletons from the Tikal burial series, three important conclusions emerge with respect to ancient Maya demography and social organization. (1) Tikal was settled by people of moderate stature, and this remained relatively stable over several centuries. A marked reduction in male stature in Late Classic times may be indicative of a situation of nutritional stress, which may have had something to do with the collapse of Classic Maya civilization. (2) Stature differences between those buried in tombs and others at Tikal suggest that, in the last century B.C., a distinct ruling class developed at Tikal. This simple class division of rulers and commoners may have become more complex in Late Classic times. (3) There was a marked sexual dimorphism in stature between males and females at Tikal. This is probably partially genetic and partially a reflection of relatively lower status for women as opposed to men in Maya society.
Studies of hominid fossils have frequently reported that one of their outstanding characteristics is their heavily worn teeth. Many skeletal remains of modern man also show this condition of dental attrition, which is probably related to certain cultural activities. The varieties of foods consumed by primitive man and the specialized tool functions of the teeth have left significant marks in the form of worn occlusal surfaces over the dental arches. This paper discusses some of the functions of the teeth indicated by these marks and suggests that tooth wear should be studied carefully in order to gain significant information about the activities of past populations.
The present research represents an attempt to explain the occurrence of cribra orbitalia in Nubian skeletal remains associated with Meroitic, X-Group and Christian cultural horizons. The distribution of cribra orbitalia among 285 crania examined revealed a concentration of lesions among infants and aged individuals. While earlier studies have suggested cribra orbitalia may reflect the occurrence of abnormal hemoglobins such as sickle cell anemia or thalassemia, a consideration of the environmental context in which the lesions occurred makes an alternative hypothesis more likely. Particularly in Nubia (past and present), where parasitic infection is high, the diet is poor in iron, weanling diarrhea is frequent and multiparity is the norm, chronic iron deficiency anemia is a more likely causal factor. This interpretation is also compatable with clinical observations of cribra orbitalia among modern individuals suffering from chronic iron deficiency anemia.
Mesoamerican body size, reflected by stature estimations of skeletal series, is examined for evidence of body size reduction as an adaptive response to intensive food production. Smaller mean stature is seen in the data for central and southern Mesoamerica than in that of northern Mexico where the reliance on food production was less intense in prehistoric times. Malnutrition, undernutrition and concomitant disease levels, a result of the adoption of a settled and Neolithic way of life in Mesoamerica, are seen as primary causes of this differential stature.
Electron microprobe analysis was used to determine the specific sites at which minor elements are concentrated in fossil bone. In conjunction with data on bulk composition, this has permitted dividing the minor elements into three groups. Sodium and strontium are incorporated into the apatite crystal structure mainly during the life of the animal. Fluorine and yttrium also enter the apatite structure, but their presence is due to postmortal enrichment and is controlled mainly by availability of the element, and time, and, to a lesser degree, environmental conditions. Silicon, manganese, and iron are present in the form of separate minerals filling voids of all sizes in the bone structure. Their addition is clearly postmortal and reflects the diagenetic environment. Arsenic, barium, lead, thorium, uranium, and various rare earth elements have also been detected in fossil bones, but their specific location and time of incorporation into the bone have not been determined.
Results from the elemental analysis of completely dissolved human bone by atomic absorption are (for some elements) reproducibly higher than those from the analysis of only the material obtained through digestion of the bone. Because digestion procedures can be quite variable, complete dissolution should provide more reliable comparisons between laboratories. We offer a detailed description of the dissolution procedure and of the atomic absorption analysis for a dozen elements.
The hypothesis that transverse lines of increased density in growing bones are caused by illnesses and other traumas of childhood was investigated using tibial x-rays and medical records of 107 boys and 94 girls in the Fels longitudinal series. There is not a one to one relationship between even severe illnesses and line formation. The frequency of appearance of lines at each age interval, one month through fourteen years, was calculated for both sexes separately and combined, in order to show periods of maximum formation. That transverse lines are “growth arrest” lines which cause ultimate growth retardation was discounted since no significant difference in finally attained adult stature was noted between heavily and lightly lined subjects.
Radiopaque transverse lines (lines of arrested growth, Harris's lines) were counted on X-rays of the distal end of 102 adult femurs from prehistoric California Indian populations representing three archaeological Horizons. The sample from Early Horizon has the highest frequency of lines, the Middle Horizon the next, and the sample from Late Horizon has the lowest frequency of lines. These differences are statistically significant. Archaeological evidence indicates that the Indians improved and broadened their subsistence economy from Early to Late Horizon. It is concluded that the differences in the frequency of lines among the three California Indian populations probably are associated with differences in morbidity and/or nutritional status of the people. If this hypothesis is correct, then frequency distribution of transverse lines represents a valuable tool for the paleopathologist and the archaeologist.
Work initiated purely as a dating project in support of a craniometric and morphological investigation of domestic dogs from early Peru has proved to have much wider implications. The stable carbon isotoperatios (13C/12C) of hair samples from ten dogs show that maize formed a significant part of their diet. Radiocarbon dates for these remains have confirmed that they belong to the period well after the cultivation of maize was first established. Stable carbon isotope measurements can thus be used to test for the presence of maize as a dietary constituent at earlier sites even where there is otherwise only indirect evidence for its cultivation. Collagen from animal or human bone is a suitable alternative to hair for this purpose and the method has been successfully applied to collagen dating to c. 3000 BC from the Valdivia culture site of Real Alto, Ecuador, as well as to a series of early Peruvian dogs.
DISSERTATION (PH.D.)--THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN Dissertation Abstracts International,
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Massachusetts, 1975. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 243-280). Photocopy.
A well preserved mummified child from about A.D. 1200 was recovered from Canyon de Chelly in northeastern Arizona in 1971. Striking skull changes were found and microscopic, ultrastructural, and cytochemical studies confirm the diagnosis of porotic hyperostosis that resulted in spongy bone appearance. It is suggested that a possible cause for this condition could be iron deficiency of a severity seldom found in modern societies. For, among inhabitants of environments similar to that of Canyon de Chelly, where maize constituted over 75% of the diet, porotic hyperostosis reaches a high incidence of 83%. A high incidence of porotic hyperostosis (74%) is also found among Peruvian Indians with a similar diet. Comparisons of the incidence of porotic hyperostosis between canyon bottom inhabitants and other southwestern Indian groups living in sage plain areas where iron and animal protein were plentiful show the differences to be highly significant. Ten fish species, 41 mammal species, 52 bird species, and 77 plant species have been reported to exist in the sage plain areas. Children from canyon areas have an incidence of porotic hyperostosis ranging from 64% at Inscription House, Arizona, to 88% at Canyon de Chelly, Arizona. The incidence ranges from 15 to 18% among the sage plain groups at Navajo Reservoir and Gran Quivira, New Mexico.
Porotic hyperostosis was studied in 539 crania from maizegrowing prehistoric and historic groups who occupied two dissimilar ecological zones of the Plateau country of Arizona and New Mexico—canyon bottoms and sage plain. Defined as abnormal localized sieve-like structural changes involving the hematopoietic areas of the cranium, it was found in 185 (34.3%) of these skulls. More frequent in children than in adults, it shows significant frequency differences between both children and adults of the two ecological zones. The two ecological zones differ in the availability of iron in the diet; the canyon inhabitants depended heavily on maize (which interferes with iron absorption) while the sage plain people consumed more iron-rich animal products. We hypothesize that an increased dependence on maize produced more iron deficiency anemia and resulted in more porotic hyperostosis. Maize is known to have permitted a food surplus which in turn allowed for increased South-western population growth in marginal areas like the canyon bottoms. Heavy dependency on a single food type with consequent hematologic problems may have been an important reason for the subsequent abandonment of the Anasazi region.
Among primitive peoples dental attrition appears to be a natural phenomenon. Often the degrees and kinds of tooth wear vary from population to population. This variability is possibly related to certain material aspects of culture such as diet, food preparation techniques and tool usage. In order to learn more about these relationships, extensive cross cultural comparisons must be made. This paper reports on a study of dental attrition among skeletal remains of North American Indians from three areas: California, the Southwest and the Valley of Mexico. A method of comparing worn teeth of these populations was devised so several characteristics of the teeth and supporting bone could be examined by population. This study showed significant differences in type and degree of wear among the three groups as well as differences between sexes within each population. A positive correlation between tooth wear and cultural factors was found. Dietary specialization and division of labor appear to be responsible for the degree and type of wear found in this sample. Further studies of this type are planned to expand the sample size and, if the new data support these correlations, valuable information about human–environmental relationships can be gained.
A total of 235 (176 ♂ and 59 ♀) cadavers were measured. Of these blood samples of 132 (103 ♂ and 29 ♀) are drawn. Only those cadavers of which the long bones could be measured afterwards were used in the investigation, and of these only those whose blood was of group O and Rh +. A sample of 98 (69 ♂ and 29 ♀) was thus arrived at and divided morphoscopically into seven categories going from “pure” Indian to “pure” white. With electronic computers, means and standard deviations were calculated for all six unpaired long bones and for stature, as well as the coefficient of multiple correlation among the seven variables, for both males and females. As categories leading from “pure” white towards the other extreme were withdrawn, the sample size was reduced but the coefficient of multiple correlation increased from 0.71 to 0.90 in males, and from 0.74 to 0.94 in females, indicating that a more homogeneous population was being dealt with. Mean stature for this population was 161.50 cm and 149.80 cm for males and females, after 2.5 cm are deducted from cadaveral measurements. As the sample is morphoscopically and serologically as close as one could get to pre-hispanic conditions and as the statures arrived at are representative of what is known, tables were drawn giving the corresponding values of statures of males and females going from 180 cm to 130 cm at steps of 0.5 cm. It is submitted that until a larger sample is obtained, the newly drawn tables and formulae are more appropriate to calculate stature from long bones of American pre-hispanic populations than any other hitherto used.
The world-wide average strontium-90 content of man was about 0.12 micromicrocurie per gram of calcium (1/10,000 of the maximum permissible concentration) in the fall of 1955. A few values as high as 10 times the average have been obtained. This value is in accord with the predicted value based on fallout measurements and fractionation through the soilplant-milk-human chain. With the present burden of strontium-90, this average level should rise to 1 to 2 micromicrocuries of strontium-90 per gram of calcium by 1970.
The carbon-13/carbon-12 ratios of the carbonate and collagen fractions of bone of the sympatric hyrax species Procavia johnstoni and Heterohyrax brucei indicate that the former obtains most of its diet by grazing while the latter is primarily a browser. The carbon-13/carbon-12 ratios of these fractions in fossil bone will record information about diet if they have not been altered during diagenesis.
The strontium content of bone is a function of the strontium content of the ingested food. Under favorable conditions of fossilization it can be used for the determination of feeding habits of extinct terrestrial vertebrates. Homogeneous samples of fossil biotic communities are a prerequisite for significant results.
Teeth as tools for prehistoric studies
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Patterns of Nutritional Stress in Some Illinois Woodland Populations
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