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Nutritional consequences of prehistoric subsistence strategies in lower Central America

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Title: Nutritional consequences of prehistoric subsistence strategies in lower Central America
Author(s): Norr, Lynette Caryl
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Grove, David C.
Department / Program: Anthropology
Discipline: Anthropology
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): Anthropology, Archaeology Anthropology, Physical
Abstract: This thesis presents new data on subsistence strategies and examines patterns of nutritional status of prehistoric populations that inhabited tropical coastal environments in lower Central America during the period from 5000 B.C. to A.D. 1550. The subsistence bases of archaeological populations are reconstructed using the stable carbon and stable nitrogen isotopic composition of human bone collagen. The effect of a monotonous diet of a starchy grain such as maize on the health of these populations is evaluated through the examination of individual human skeletal remains for macroscopic indications of nutritional stress.The skeletal remains of over 500 individuals from over twenty sites in Panama and Costa Rica were examined for patterns of subsistence and nutritional status. From this database, 284 individuals were sampled for stable isotope analysis for dietary reconstruction, and 309 individuals were examined for (1) infection, (2) porotic hyperostosis (iron-deficiency anemia), and (3) enamel hypoplasias.The results of the stable isotope analyses of the human bone collagen indicate that the prehistoric diets of lower Central America were generally mixed diets, including terrestrial and marine protein resources, with maize (Zea mays) as a carbohydrate source of varying importance through time. In central Pacific Panama, maize consumption peaked by 200 B.C.-A.D. 500 and maintained that level of consumption or declined slightly over the next 500-1000 years. In northwestern Costa Rica the importance of maize in the diet over the last 2500 years was high, but declined over time in favor of marine fish at sites along the coastal bays.Are any of the observed pathologies directly related to nutritional stress as a result of subsistence choices? Some populations show serious trends toward a particular food resource, such as marine fish or maize, but no food resource category was excessively consumed to the exclusion of all others. Of the groups examined here, each shows a different pattern of stress or infection on the skeleton. These patterns of stress do not seem to be directly related to specific nutritional deficiencies, but rather related to lifestyles associated with geography, settlement, sanitation, and subsistence strategies.
Issue Date: 1991
Type: Text
Language: English
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/21105
Rights Information: Copyright 1991 Norr, Lynette Caryl
Date Available in IDEALS: 2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog: AAI9124465
OCLC Identifier: (UMI)AAI9124465
 

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