Dawn E. Harn

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Gebo, Daniel Lee, 1955-

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Anthropology


Indians of North America--Diseases--Georgia--History; Indians of North America--Antiquities; Indians of North America--Georgia--Health and hygiene--History


The primary purpose of this thesis is to study the synchronic and diachronic comparisons of infectious diseases and their relationship to nutritional health in a temporal series of skeletal populations from the Southeastern United States Atlantic coast. The first population under study is a collection of 19 precontact preagricultural sites that inhabited five locations along coastal Georgia (Chatham Co.; Wilmington Island; St. Catherine's Island; Sea Island; and St. Simons Island). The second population represents a collection of 14 precontact agricultural sites that inhabited four locations along coastal Georgia (Chatham Co.; St. Catherine's Island; McIntosh Co.; and St. Simons Island). The third population is from a cemetery located within a Spanish mission site, Santa Catalina de Guale de Santa Maria, on Amelia Island, Florida. The question of subsistence and its role in the overall health of a population has been considered in earlier studies. These studies have hypothesized that populations practicing a hunter-gatherer lifestyle have tended to have fewer instances of physiological stress than do those populations practicing an intensive agricultural lifestyle. For this project, analysis of the skeletal elements of the three populations noted above supports this notion (i.e., positive relationship exists between those populations practicing intensive agriculture and higher instances of infectious diseases). This study further indicates that the postcontact preagricultural population practicing a hunter-gatherer lifeway tended to have a lower freguency of infectious lesions than the postcontact agricultural population and that the transition to intensive agriculture, acompanied with increases in population density and settlement, were correlated with higher instances of frequencies of infectious diseases. Thus, the contact settlements experienced far greater health stresses than the two other populations (e.g., significantly higher degree of infectious lesions). This diachronic study shows that as populations become more nucleated and adopt maize as a primary component in their diets, their overall quality of life declines.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [86]-98)


111 pages




Northern Illinois University

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