Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Gebo, Daniel

Second Advisor

Thu, Kendall M.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Anthropology


This thesis examines the prehistoric human skeletal remains recovered from the Terminal Archaic Morse site that was excavated during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. The project was led by Drs. Dan Morse and Georg Neumann, with assistance provided by Ms. Louise Robbins to oversee the recovery of the skeletal remains, as well as a host of various other workers and volunteers. Since the conclusion of fieldwork over fifty years ago, only a modest number of articles describing the findings from the site have been published.

In light of this circumstance, the focus of this study provides an overview of the site, its temporal timeframe, cultural associations, and demographic composition. For the latter, this is accomplished through the enumeration of the skeletal remains to determine the minimum number of individuals excavated at the site. However, interments previously identified as commingled or cremated remains are not included as part of this study. Emphasis is placed on the estimation of sex and age for adults through the use of cranial and pelvic

morphology and measurements obtained from long bones and crania. Long bone measurements are also used to estimate stature. In contrast, only age estimates were obtained for subadults. These efforts utilized dental eruption patterns, epiphyseal union, and long bone measurements. In addition, both adult and subadult skeletal remains were macroscopically analyzed for the presence of pathologies.

Overall, it was determined that the Morse site mortuary population consists of 126 individuals, encompassing 102 adults and 24 subadults. Sex and age estimations were successfully completed for 46 individuals, revealing an even split between males and females. Although ages ranged from the 20s up to the late-50s, the two sets with the strongest representation include those in the 20-35 and 35-50 age groups. However, due to the fragmentary and/or absent condition of the skeletal elements necessary for this assessment, age estimations could not be performed on the bulk of the skeletal remains. In contrast, less than 1/3 of the subadults could not be assessed for age. While ages ranged from infancy to late adolescence, children identified as newborns to 6 months and those from 6-18 months make up the large majority of subadults within the Morse site mortuary population.

Additionally, the Morse site mortuary population provides a significant sample size to observe the paleopathological condition of the remains, specifically recurring patterns of disease or trauma. While the analysis revealed 7 major

pathological categories, including biomechanical, systemic, genetic, trauma, dental, nutritional, and other, biomechanical ailments, specifically degenerative joint disease, had the highest recurrence overall. This finding is not surprising based on a proposed hunting and gathering lifestyle practiced by the Morse site people.

The results of the Morse site demographic analysis were then compared with other Red Ocher sites within Wisconsin (Henschel, Barnes Creek, and Convent Knoll) and a Glacial Kame site from Ontario (Hind) in order to determine any commonalities among them, such as population size and the presence of pathologies. Notable consistencies include the proportion of relatively young and middle-aged adult inhumations found within the respective cemeteries. Additionally, the pathological physiognomies reflect a demanding lifestyle evocative of highly-mobile populations that lived an ephemeral existence within the landscape. As such, resultant biomechanical stressors imprinted indelible changes throughout the axial and appendicular skeleton, manifest mainly as degenerative joint disease and other arthritic alterations in the skeletal tissue.


570 pages




Northern Illinois University

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