The Emergence of Relationality: The Ontology of Personhood and Age-Based Identity in the Mortuary Practices of Archaic Indian Knoll, Kentucky


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This thesis examines the embodiment of biosocial age identity in the mortuary practices of the Late Archaic site, Indian Knoll (ca. 4600-3500 BP), in Kentucky. Utilizing bioarchaeological biosocial approaches and mortuary theory, the mortuary practices of Indian Knoll inhabitants were examined to determine persistent practices of biosocial mortuary identity, in which the embodiment of age-based identity is attributed to the cultural ontology of personhood. Lower mandibular radiographs were used to conduct biological age assessment on a preadult sample population in order to establish maturity-based dental age rather than chronological age assessment. Burial positioning, orientation, interment number, and grave good presence were compared across site between biological age groups. High correlation in burial form between biologically immature and mature individuals demonstrates that social identities were ascribed early in life in association with like-status individuals and reinforced over the life course. The inclusion of specific grave goods in select burial contexts emphasize hunter-gatherer identities across the mortuary landscape, which suggests that Indian Knoll biosocial identities revolved around inherent ontological relationships with non-human agents that are negotiated through persistent socioecological interactions throughout Indian Knoll’s occupation.