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9 Individual Frailty, Children of Privilege, and Stress in Late Classic Copan Rebecca Storey One of the important skeletal samples available from the Late Classic period (A.D. 700-1000) for the important Maya center at Copan, Honduras , was recovered from a large elite compound , 9N-8, in the residential barrio of Sepulturas . This densely populated barrio is just to the east of the ceremonial and political center of the site, the Acropolis, and contained a variety of compounds. The 9N-8 compound, the "House of the Bacabs" (Webster 1989b), was the largest in Sepulturas, containing 12 adjoining patio groups with more than 50 structures housing around 200 individuals. The compound is believed to have been occupied by families belonging to a prominent noble lineage and possibly a few retainers serving the nobles. The power and importance of the lineage are revealed by the elaborate hieroglyphic bench and sculptured building occupied by the head of the lineage (see Webster 1989b), the high quality of the architecture of the patios, and the large number of individuals integrated into the functioning of the residential group. 116 Mortuary characteristics varied within the compound , from tombs with various offerings that included exotic shell and jade or serpentine objects to simple earth pits with no offerings. Thus, there was probably a range of status within the compound, and only some individuals may have had a recognized noble rank. However, the compound's patios all exhibit similar domestic functions and evidence of cooperation and integration as one elite social group (see Hendon 1992). Thus, all individuals residing in the compound probably benefited from the obvious wealth and power of their lord and enjoyed as high a standard of living as a group as it was possible to enjoy in Late Classic Copan society, better than that available to most of the society. Copan, as was common with other Maya lowland centers of the Classic Maya civilization , declined rapidly in population size after the florescence of the Late Classic period, and the valley was eventually abandoned by A.D. 1200 (Webster and Freter 1990b). This "Clas- sic ~laya collapse" has long been of interest to archaeologists (Culbert 1988); the antecedents of this phenomenon should be visible in the lifestyles of the people during the period hefore abandonment. Thus, the Late Classic skeletons available from the society should hold important information about the processes leading to societal decline. A variety of information can be deduced from a skeleton, but the main information dcsired is age-at-death and the presence of pathological conditions, so that some indications of possible demographic characteristics and general hcalth can be added to information from archaeology to reconstruct life during Late Classic period Copan. This paper will begin to examine the age-at-death and pathological lesions of subadults from the 9N-8 elite compound as a first step to demographic analysis and life way reconstruction. Developmental defects of dental enamel are of interest to anthropologists because of their potential as nonspecific paleopathological indicators to inform about the occurrence of physiological stress as a result of health, nutritional status, and living conditions during childhood (e.g., Goodman and Rose 1991). The defects include hypoplasias, deficiencies in the thickness of enamel, and hypocalcifications, opacities and discolorations resulting from impaired enamel mineralization and maturation. The advantages of studying such defects are that they can be observed macroscopically, as well as histologically, that once forrned they are permanently recorded in a tooth, and that the age of occurrence of hypoplastic defects can he determined from their location on a crown. Although many studies have proved thenl useful in indicating situations of both ubiquitous and rare stress during childhood in past and present populations (e.g., Goodman and Capasso 1992), there have been recent questions over methodology, such as ho\~ to determine age of occurrence (e.g., Skinner and C;oodman 1992) and ho\v to interpret thcm as nonspecific stress indicators (Wood et al. 1992). Ho\~ever, recent work on contemporary populations has also supported the linkage of socioeconomic status and poverty to hypoplasias (Lukacs and Joshi 1992; Goodman, Pelto et al. 1992) and has shown the sensitivity of hypoplasias to undernutrition (May et al. 1993). A recent article questions the interpretation of skeletal lesions, such as dental defects, on skeletal series as health indicators of past populations , because the interpretation is confounded by demographic nonstationarity, selective mortality; and individual frailty (Wood et al. 1992). Especially important to this position is that skeletons represent a biased...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780817383831
Print ISBN
9780817353766
MARC Record
OCLC
680620770
Pages
306
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
N
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