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Health in Pre-Angkorian Cambodia: A Bioarchaeological Analysis of the Skeletal Remains from Phum Snay

From: Asian Perspectives
Volume 48, Number 1, Spring 2009
pp. 56-78 | 10.1353/asi.0.0016



Excavations at a pre-Angkorian (c. 350 B.C.–A.D. 200) cemetery in the village of Phum Snay, Northwest Cambodia, have revealed 23 inhumations. This small sample of skeletal remains varies in completeness from a scatter of bone to complete articulated skeletons with an array of grave goods including bronze and iron artifacts. There is archaeological evidence for a possible militarized society, but the overall health of this small cemetery population does not provide further conclusive evidence. Demographically, the skeletal sample lacks many subadults and older adults and is skewed 2 : 1 toward females, but this is probably a result of poor preservation and sample size rather than any true bias in cemetery organization. Stature in both males and females is wide ranging and may indicate a heterogeneous sample either in terms of genetics or access to resources. Dental health shows evidence for sexual differentiation in diet, with females showing more caries and less advanced attrition than males, perhaps reflecting a sexual division of labor. There is also a very high proportion of adults, both male and female, with intentional ablation of the anterior dentition, most commonly involving the upper lateral incisors and upper canines. Apart from some cases of moderate joint degeneration and minor fracture (hand and clavicle), there is very little evidence for significant disease or trauma. Overall, evidence from this small sample is suggestive of a relatively healthy lifestyle but with some indicators of a non-egalitarian social structure.