Life and death in the eastern woodlands: A bioarchaeological synthesis of seven Late Woodland period mortuary sites in Maryland
Human remains excavated from archaeological contexts have often played only marginal roles in our understanding of the past. Too frequently, human skeletons have been viewed as having little to contribute to the archaeological record or as such political headaches that they are not worth the trouble of removal and study. The emergent field of bioarchaeology is largely responsible for the recent contributions that have enabled a more thorough understanding of disease, demography, activity, subsistence, human adaptability, and population dynamics in antiquity. This study provides a detailed synthesis of biological, archaeological, and mortuary data for seven Late Woodland (A.D. 900--A.D. 1600) period sites in western Maryland and examines temporal, geographic, and cultural trends in health, disease, and mortuary practices. The goals of this study are to synthesize the biological, archaeological, and mortuary data for the described Late Woodland period sites in the Middle and Upper Potomac Valleys of what is today Maryland; establish demographic as well as morbidity and mortality profiles for the composite population and each cultural phase; evaluate the frequency and distribution of nutritional, pathological, and mechanical manifestations of stress on bone and teeth for the composite sample and each cultural phase; identify biological, environmental, and/or cultural sources of stress that contributed to the nutritional, pathological, and mechanical alterations evidenced in osseous tissues; and examine mortuary patterning through the assessment of burial associations and attributes for the composite sample and each Late Woodland cultural phase. Identified trends in health and disease indicate that most significant stressors experienced by the Late Woodland people of Maryland were those that were culturally based and related to the social and lifestyle alterations that accompanied the change from food collection to food production.