Biological and Cultural Evidence for Social Maturation at Point Hope, Alaska: Integrating Data from Archaeological Mortuary Practices and Human Skeletal Biology



Justice, Lauryn

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This thesis explores social age in a sample of hunter-gatherers from Point Hope, Alaska using dental estimates of age-at-death and archaeological mortuary practices. Constructions of age based on biological milestones are not always applicable crossculturally as maturation is also a cultural event. In addition, the social ontology of identities within hunter-gatherers represents a neglected area of bioarchaeological research. Radiographs were taken of 36 mandibles associated with Ipiutak (AD 400-750) and Tigara (AD 1100-1700) cultural groups. Ages were estimated based on tooth formation. Data regarding grave goods, body positioning, and spatial orientation were interpolated from the original site report. In both cultures, subadults in the 0.1 to 3.0 year cohort are buried face down, without grave goods. Between Ipiutak and Tigara subadults, individuals within the 4.0 to 12.0 year cohort are interred face up, supine, their head spatially oriented towards the west, with animal implements such as ivory carvings. In some instances, individuals between 2.1 to 10.0 years of age, are buried with adults, and the burial is overlain with grave goods. These findings indicate similarity in social development between Ipiutak and Tigara cultures, though stylistic variations in grave goods suggest transformations in the symbolic nature of these implements. This study demonstrates the value of integrating the archaeological mortuary record with biological data to enhance perspectives on the development of social boundaries associated with biological age in past communities.



Social ontology, Bioarchaeology, Hunter-gatherers, Mortuary analysis