Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
The purpose of this project was to explore the relationship between culture and biology through the analysis of human skeletal remains. Particularly, I seek to investigate how economic changes can affect the presence of childhood and adulthood stress indicators. After the end of World War II, Thailand experienced many economic changes, which led to increased access to healthcare and agricultural technology. Because of these post-war changes, I predicted that: 1) there would be less evidence of childhood stress after WWII, 2) there would not be a difference in childhood stress between males and females due to equal access to resources, 3) there would be no difference in adult stress (in the form of joint degeneration) after the war because of slow agricultural change, and 4) there would not be a difference between sexes in joint degeneration because of shared work activities. Assessment of these hypotheses involved the analysis of 172 individuals housed in the Human Skeleton Research Centre at Khon Kaen University, Thailand. Each individual was observed for the presence of childhood stress indicators (linear enamel hypoplasias, cribra orbitalia/porotic hyperostosis, and comparatively short statures) and adult stress indicators (degenerative joint disease). Comparisons where then made between the birth year groups (pre-WWII and post-WWII) and sexes to assess the effect of post-WWII changes. Statistical analysis indicated no significant difference in the frequencies of childhood stress indicators for both birth-year group and sex. The significant differences between joint degeneration and birth-year groups were significant in the shoulder, elbow, knee, and hip, but they were confounded by the unexpected age difference between the birth-year groups. In the comparisons between joint degeneration and sex, there were significant differences in the knee, which were attributed to biological differences, and temporomandibular joint. The temporomandibular joint difference between post-WWII males and females is of particular interest because ethnographic records of Thai village life do not suggest a reason for why males have more degeneration in their temporomandibular joint than females. These findings provide new information about the individuals in the collection and supply a stepping-stone for understanding how economic changes affect the experience of stress within a population.
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