Date of Award

8-1-2014

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Anthropology

First Advisor

Dabbs, Gretchen

Abstract

The relationship between biology, culture, and environment has been the subject of growing interest within the field of bioarchaeology. This study seeks to examine the nature of this relationship within the context of the Middle Sicán culture, a pre-Hispanic society which dominated much of the north coast of Peru from 900-1100 CE. A comprehensive osteological analysis of the individuals excavated from the site of Sicán by the Sicán Archaeological Project during the 2008 field season was conducted in August 2013. From this data, the author analyzed the relationship between social status inferred from the mortuary context and health. Skeletal indicators of stress and disease were used as proxies for health. The biocultural consequences of a prolonged drought and subsequent mega-El Niño event, which occurred at the end of the Middle Sicán period, were also examined. The results of this study suggest individuals of lower social status may have experienced worse dental health, possibly as a result of differential access to food resources. Additionally, temporal changes in dental health suggest Middle Sicán elite individuals may have become increasingly stressed at the end of the Middle Sicán period. The combined effects of the prolonged drought and mega-El Niño event may have necessitated a dietary shift which affected the dental health of these individuals.

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