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Keywords:

  • Enamel histology;
  • Childhood stress;
  • Prehistoric American Indians

Abstract

Although previous paleopathological studies have used disturbances in enamel formation as indicators of childhood stress, the full potential of this technique has not been realized. This paper presents a test case which demonstrates that the frequency of disturbed enamel formation (i.e., Wilson bands) is associated with other stress indicators (i.e., probability of dying and infectious lesions) in three prehistoric skeletal samples representing the Middle Woodland (10.3%), Mississippian Acculturated Late Woodland (21.4%), and the Middle Mississippian (40.0%). Additionally, the mean ages at death of individuals with at least one Wilson band are lower than those without bands. These results suggest that Wilson bands are an indicator of the relative proportion of individuals who are high susceptibles in prehistoric populations. The data also corroborate the hypothesis that the adoption of maize agriculture in the prehistoric American Midwest is associated with increased stress.