Health status of the Neolithic population of Alepotrypa Cave, Greece



During the Neolithic, human health and lifestyle changed following the adoption of domesticated plants and animals and sedentism. This paper presents a study on human osteological remains from Alepotrypa Cave, an important and very well-preserved Late and Final Greek Neolithic site occupied from 5000–3200 BC. The Alepotrypa sample comes from primary and secondary burials as well as scattered bone, and consists of a minimum number of 161 individuals. It includes equal proportions of adults and subadults and males and females, is characterized by high child mortality, and falls within the range of other Neolithic sites in terms of age profiles and stature. The most frequent pathological conditions observed in this population are: 1) anemic conditions (cribra orbitalia and porotic hyperostosis), mild or healed in manifestation, most probably of nutritional origin, resulting from a poor diet focused on terrestrial resources such as domesticated cereals; 2) osteoarthritis and musculoskeletal stress markers, indicative of increased physical activity and heavy workloads; and 3) elevated prevalence of healed, depressed cranial fractures, serving as evidence of violent, nonlethal confrontations. Teeth exhibit a low prevalence of dental carries and linear enamel hypoplasia. The overall demographic, pathological, and behavioral results are consistent with observations of Neolithic populations elsewhere in Greece and the Mediterranean. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2004. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.