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Infant and juvenile growth in ancestral Pueblo Indians

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Abstract

The present study examines patterns of infant and juvenile growth in a diachronic sample of ancestral Pueblo Indians (AD 1300–1680) from the American Southwest. An assessment of growth patterns is accompanied by an evaluation of pathological conditions often considered to be indicators of nutritional deficiencies and/or gastrointestinal infections. Growth patterns and the distribution of pathological conditions are interpreted relative to culturally relevant age categories defined by Puebloan rites of passage described in the ethnographic literature. A visual comparison of growth distance curves revealed that relative to a modern comparative group our sample of ancestral Pueblo infant and juveniles exhibited faltering growth beginning soon after birth to about 5 years of age. A comparison of curves describing growth relative to adult femoral length, however, indicated reduced growth occurring later, by around 2 years of age. Similar to previous studies, we observed a high proportion of nonsurvivors exhibiting porotic cranial lesions during the first 2 years of life. Contrary to expectations, infants and juveniles without evidence of porotic cranial lesions exhibited a higher degree of stunting. Our study is generally consistent with previous research reporting poor health and high mortality for ancestral Pueblo Indian infants and juveniles. Through use of a culturally relevant context defining childhood, we argue that the observed poor health and high mortality in our sample occur before the important transition from young to older child and the concomitant initial incorporation into tribal ritual organization. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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