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What Mean These Bones?

Studies in Southeastern Bioarchaeology

Edited by Mary Lucas Powell, Patricia S. Bridges, and Ann Marie W. Mires, with c

Publication Year: 1991

A Dan Josselyn Memorial Publication

Until recently, archaeological projects that included analysis of human remains had often lacked active collaboration between archaeologists and physical anthropologists from the planning stages onward. During the 1980s, a conjunctive approach developed; known as "bioarchaeology," it draws on the methodological and theoretical strengths of the two subdisciplines to bridge a perceived communications gap and promote a more comprehensive understanding of prehistoric and historic cultures.

This volume addresses questions of human adaptation in a variety of cultural contexts, with a breadth not found in studies utilizing solely biological or artifactual data. These nine case studies from eight Southeastern states cover more than 4,000 years of human habitation, from Archaic hunter-gatherers in Louisiana and Alabama to Colonial planters and slaves in South Carolina. Several studies focus upon variations in health between or within late prehistoric agricultural societies. For example, the discovery that reliance upon maize as a dietary staple did not result invariably in poor health, as claimed by earlier studies, either for entire populations or, in ranked societies, for the non-elite majority, has fostered a new appreciation for the managerial wisdom of the Mississippian peoples, as well as for their agricultural skills.


Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. viii-x

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pp. xi

We would like to thank Richard W Jefferies, Henry T. Wright, John H. Blitz, Bruce D. Smith, and Jane E. Buikstra for their valuable advice and encouragement during the production of this volume. Victoria Horwitz and Jo Stone prepared the figure and table in the introductory chapter, and Wanda Smith and Betsy R. Davis provided expert secretarial as ...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-6

Despite the number of ongoing archaeological projects that include re search on human skeletal remains, few are characterized by active collaboration between archaeologists and physical anthropologists from the planning stages onward. An unfortunate lack of coordination in research goals, sampling strategies, and recovery methods is the common ...

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2. Bioarchaeology and Subsistence in the Central and Lower Portions of the Mississippi Valley

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pp. 7-21

During the past two decades archaeologists have demonstrated a great interest in establishing both the timing of the origins of agricultural dependency and the cultural-ecological mechanisms that stimulated this mode of human adaptation (e.g., Cohen 1977; Rindos 1984; among others). A more recent development has been the use of bioarchaeological ...

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3. Ranked Status and Health in the Mississippian Chiefdom at Moundville

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pp. 22-51

A dominant theme in the archaeology of the southeastern United States over the past fifty years has been exploration of Mississippian sites of the late prehistoric and protohistoric periods. This interest was sparked in part by early discoveries of spectacular artifacts of stone, copper, marine shell, and other exotic materials deposited with burials in earthen ...

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4. Health and Cultural Change in the Late Prehistoric American Bottom, Illinois

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pp. 52-69

The development of organizationally complex Mississippian cultures and their later decline were significant events in the prehistoric and protohistoric cultural trajectories of North America. The Mississippian cultural tradition in Illinois is particularly well represented by habitation sites, mounds, and cemeteries in a segment of the central Mississippi ...

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5. Mississippian Cultual Terminations in Middle Tennessee: What the Bioarchaelogical Evidence Can Tell Us

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pp. 70-88

Cultural terminations have always been of great interest to anthropologists, demographers, economists, historians, and other researchers tracking the changing course of the great civilizations and their less complex counterparts. This phenomenon, also referred to as "collapse" or "cultural fatigue," is believed to have occurred throughout prehistory ...

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6. Skeletal Evidence of Changes in Subsistence Activities Between the Archaic and Mississippian Time Periods in Northwestern Alabama

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pp. 89-101

One of the goals of physical anthropology is the reconstruction of past lifeways. One aspect of this reconstruction is the determination of the activities of prehistoric peoples. Admittedly, this determination is extremely difficult to do from skeletal remains alone. However, one can estimate the levels and kinds of forces that are placed upon the bones, ...

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7. Biomechanical Adaptation and Behavior on the Prehistoric Georgia Coast

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pp. 102-113

The study of human skeletal morphology offers an important means by which both level and type of physical activity in past populations can be analyzed. Because the skeleton is influenced by a wide variety of environmental circumstances-especially physical activity and nutrition-during growth and development and adulthood, it provides us ...

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8. Sifting the Ashes: Reconstruction of a Complex Archaic Mortuary Program in Louisiana

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pp. 114-130

Death is a universal human "rite of passage" whose physical manifestations are often preserved in the archaeological record. Ethnologists have collected a wealth of data on North American Indian mortuary customs, representing a wide range of cultural groups (Bushnell 1920; Swanton 1911, 1946; Yarrow 1880; among others). From these and from worldwide studies, a body of theory ...

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9. The Prehistoric People of Fort Center: Physical and Health Characteristics

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pp. 131-147

... Our analysis of the human skeletal remains recovered during the excavation of the Fort Center site by W. H. Sears (1982) is summarized here. (For a more extensive report, see Miller-Shaivitz 1986.) In addition to a description of physical and health characteristics of this population, we examine the hypothesis that this sample represents individuals of high socioeconomic status, including ...

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10. Status and Health in Colonial South Carolina: Belleview Plantation 1738-1756

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pp. 148-164

Variations in social rank within complex sociopolitical systems are often considered to influence differential access to valued goods and services. It is often assumed that factors that influence longevity, growth, and health in general are preferentially available to particular social classes. Our colleagues in social anthropology have documented such ...

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11. Bioarchaeology in a Broader Context

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pp. 165-171

Over the past two decades the Midwest and Southeast have witnessed a dramatic expansion of the archaeological data base, due primarily to changes in federal law and the resultant healthy increase in funding for archaeology. Paralleling this expansion has been a less widely recognized but equally dramatic upsurge in innovative problem-oriented ...

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12. Out of the Appendix and Into the Dirt: Comments on Thirteen Years of Bioarchaeological Research

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pp. 172-188

Fourteen years ago, in 1977, the University of Georgia Press published Biocultural Adaptation in Prehistoric America, designed to promote communication and cooperation between physical anthropologists and archaeologists (Blakely, ed. 1977). Based on a symposium held as part of the Southern Anthropological Society meetings during the previous ...

References Cited

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pp. 189-220


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pp. 221-223


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pp. 225-229

E-ISBN-13: 9780817384715
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817304843

Page Count: 243
Publication Year: 1991

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Indians of North America -- Anthropometry -- Southern States.
  • Anthropometry -- Southern States.
  • Indians of North America -- Southern States -- Antiquities.
  • Southern States -- Antiquities.
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