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Odontometric determination of sex at Mound 72, Cahokia


Correspondence to: Andrew Thompson, Student Building 130, 701 East Kirkwood Ave, Bloomington, IN 47405. E-mail:


The mortuary context of Mound 72 at the Cahokia site is one of the most unusual ever described in prehistoric North America. Previous skeletal analyses suggested that four large mass graves within the mound contained only female skeletons. However, these findings were complicated by extremely poor bone preservation that limited the number of skeletal observations that could be made. Furthermore, most skeletons were aged in the 15–25 year range, a time when sexually dimorphic bony traits may still be developing. In this study, dental remains were used to examine sex in the four presumably all-female mass graves in Mound 72. Additional sources of information, including the original field/laboratory notes and new sexing data based on modern standards, were gathered to fully evaluate the dental estimates. Initially, discriminant function analysis was performed on odontometrics using the original Mound 72 sex assignment. Inconsistent results indicated that some of the skeletons may have been misclassified in the original analyses. To overcome this issue, discriminant function equations were generated using a large pooled skeletal sample from two sites in close temporal and geographic proximity to Cahokia. Application of the equations to Mound 72 revealed that each of the four mass burial groups contained individuals classified as male. These assignments were checked against the skeletal remains and the original field/laboratory notes. Discussion centers on how the results affect previous archaeological interpretations as well as the methodological considerations associated with this study. Am J Phys Anthropol 151:408–419, 2013.© 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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