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Keywords:

  • Mark I Health Index;
  • paleopathology;
  • nutritional status;
  • North American Arctic

Abstract

Using the protocol outlined in The Backbone of History: Health and Nutrition in the Western Hemisphere (BBH) (Steckel and Rose. 2002a. The backbone of history: health and nutrition in the Western Hemisphere. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), this project compares the Mark I Health Index (MIHI) scores of the Ipiutak (n = 76; 100BCE–500CE) and Tigara (n = 298; 1200–1700CE), two samples of North American Arctic Eskimos excavated from Point Hope, Alaska. Macroscopic examination of skeletal remains for evidence of anemia, linear enamel hypoplasias (LEH), infection, trauma, dental health, and degenerative joint disease (DJD) was conducted to assess differences in health status resulting from a major economic shift at Point Hope. These data demonstrate that despite differences in settlement pattern, economic system, and dietary composition, the MIHI scores for the Ipiutak (82.1) and Tigara (84.6) are essentially equal. However, their component scores differ considerably. The Ipiutak component scores are suggestive of increased prevalence of chronic metabolic and biomechanical stresses, represented by high prevalence of nonspecific infection and high frequencies of DJD in the hip/knee, thoracic vertebrae, and wrists. The Tigara experienced more acute stress, evidenced by higher prevalence of LEH and trauma. Comparison of overall health index scores with those published in BBH shows the MIHI score for the Ipiutak and Tigara falling just above the average for sites in the Western Hemisphere, adding support to the argument that the human capacity for cultural amelioration of environmental hardships is quite significant. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.