Differential Survival and Systemic Stress in the Ancestral Pueblo Southwest: A Paleoepidemiological Study of Pueblo Bonito and Hawikku



Ham, Allison C

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Recent advances in paleodemographic age estimation techniques and the integration of improved statistical methods into the bioarchaeological analysis of mortality and physiological stress has the potential to reveal levels of frailty and selective mortality within past populations. This study seeks to demonstrate how paleoepidemiological techniques can be used to advance our understanding of how behavioral and biological plasticity helped to mitigate the stressors caused by environmental perturbations in the Ancestral Pueblo Southwest. By examining two skeletal samples from the Ancestral Pueblo sites of Pueblo Bonito (A.D. 800-1200) and Hawikku (A.D. 1300-1680), this study tests the relationship between survivorship and the presence of periosteal lesions, linear enamel hypoplasia, and adult body size (i.e., adult stature and body mass). Additionally, skeletal growth trajectories are compared to adult body size to understand if smaller individuals died before reaching adulthood. Results of the study indicate that individuals with healed periosteal lesions, no observed LEH, and males below average for body mass had an increased likelihood of survival, and therefore, a lower level of frailty. The skeletal growth analysis documented a probable stunting event occurring between the ages of 6 to 12, but does not appear to be indicative of selective mortality. These results demonstrate the advantages of applying a framework of mortality and survivorship, focusing on potential relationships with early life stressors and longevity, to the bioarchaeological analysis of skeletal indicators of stress in the past.



Ancestral Pueblo, American Southwest, Bioarchaeology, Paleoepidemiology