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Keywords:

  • Long bone growth;
  • Arikara;
  • Nutritional and disease stress

Abstract

Long bone growth variation among skeletal samples has had limited application to ecological studies of archaeological groups, in spite of its well-known sensitivity to health and nutritional status. In this study we examine long bone growth variation among ten samples of Arikara skeletal groups, all located in the Middle Missouri subarea of South Dakota and ranging in time from A.D. 1600 to 1832. The samples are analyzed by variant, an archaeological taxonomic unit below Tradition. Children's long bones between about 0.5 and 11.9 years of age were analyzed by means of regression using the model, bone length =b0 + b1 (age) + b2 (log10 age). The three variants, Extended Coalescent, Postcontact Coalescent, and Disorganized Coalescent, differ from one another with regard to health and nutritional status. Extended Coalescent groups probably experienced periods of undernutrition due to unfavorable climatic conditions prevailing at the time. Postcontact Coalescent groups experienced more favorable health and nutrition due to improved climatic conditions and introduction of the horse. Disorganized Coalescent groups were exposed to undernutrition and high levels of morbidity, due to introduction of epidemic diseases, depopulation, and intertribal conflict.

Analysis of slopes shows significant heterogeneity among variants for humerus, radius, and tibia, but not femur. In general, the Postcontact Coalescent is characterized by slighter greater rates of increase with age and longer bone lengths for each age than is Extended Coalescent. Disorganized Coalescent exhibits lower rates of increase, particularly in later childhood, with shorter bone lengths in late childhood. Disorganized Coalescent also presents longer radius and humerus lengths than the other two variants in early childhood, an unexpected finding. This may be partly, but not entirely, explained by differential bone response to stress along the lines of maturity gradients.