Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Department of Sociology and Anthropology: Archaeology
Cervical vertebrae are an effective biomechanical proxy for understanding physical activities of a populace due to the osteological reactivity of nuchal muscle use to extensive weight and pressure. Differentiation in the distribution of osteophytosis (OPL), osteoarthritis (OA), and ossification of the ligamentum flavum (OLF) along the cervical vertebrae may indicate particular biomechanical stresses and/or burden-bearing differences between subsistence strategies.
A collection of 287 pre-Columbian Native American individuals (N = 854 vertebrae) was analyzed for presence and severity of OPL, OA and OLF. The sample consists of remains from six archaeological sites located in the lower Tennessee River Valley: three sites (Cherry, Eva and Kays Landing) from the Archaic period (~2500-1000 BC) that reflect an intensive hunter-gatherer subsistence strategy; and three sites (Link, Slayden and Thompson Village) from the Mississippian period (~AD 1000-1200) that reflect an agriculturalist subsistence economy. A repeated measures ANOVA was employed to compare the 167 individuals viable for OPL analysis and 103 individuals viable for OLF analysis to determine frequency and distribution. While degenerative changes are ultimately phenomena related to age and body size and are etiologically multifactorial, the results of this study, in conjunction with previous paleopathological studies of the shoulder joint, suggest a strong patterned co-association between reactive changes on the cervical spine and particular repetitive load-bearing movements (e.g., head balancing and head tumpline usage, weight bearing by the arms) and subsistence economy.
Boncal, Sarah Ann, "Implications of Vertebral Degenative Disease and Vertebral Ligamentous Ossification in Native Populations of the Lower Tennessee River Valley" (2014). Theses and Dissertations. 219.