Further aspects of fur trade life depicted in the skeleton

Authors

  • Nancy C. Lovell,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anthropology, 13-15 Tory Building, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 2H4
    • Department of Anthropology, 13-15 Tory Building, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 2H4. Tel.: +1 780 4923879; fax: +1 780 4925273
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  • Aaron A. Dublenko

    1. Department of Anthropology, 13-15 Tory Building, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 2H4
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Abstract

Osteobiographies were reconstructed from the skeletal remains of four adults from Fort Edmonton, a 19th century trading post of the Canadian fur trade. Three males were Caucasoid and probably ethnic Scots, given the usual origin of fur traders in this region. The lone adult female in the sample was Mongoloid, either Indian or Métis, and likely the ‘country wife’ of a fur trader, since she was buried in the European tradition in the fort cemetery. The cause of death is not discernible from any of the skeletal remains and none of these individuals exhibit any evidence of chronic infectious disease, malnutrition or neoplasia. Trauma, arthritis and other indicators of physical stress do appear, however, and present an opportunity to expand our understanding of the effects of fur trade life on the skeleton. Viewed in the context of historical accounts of life at the fort in the early 19th century, stress markers on the skeletons of three males have led to the conclusion that they were voyageurs who engaged in trading trips by canoe or boat. Lesions of the capsule attachment area at the proximal tibio-fibular articulation appear unilaterally in two males and may be associated with ‘mushing’ or driving a dog sled in winter. The musculoskeletal lesions on the one preserved female skeleton are consistent with the arduous domestic activities documented at the fort, which include milking cows, churning butter, stirring lye soap, and harvesting grain and root vegetables by hand. Since specific occupations or behaviours cannot be precisely determined from muscular attachment and other stress markers, these interpretations are made cautiously and only in the culture-historical context of the skeletal sample. Copyright © 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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