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Keywords:

  • degenerative joint disease;
  • Lucayan–Taíno;
  • mortuary practices;
  • palaeopathology

Abstract

In March 2007, three prehistoric skeletons were excavated and analysed from Preacher's Cave on the northern aspect of the island of Eleuthera in the Bahama archipelago. The human skeletal remains represent two males and one female dating to AD 800–1300. The first is a female in the 30s with mild osteoarthritis of the joints and spine and several healed fractures who may have been an important community elder. The second is a male in the 20s with Schmorl's nodes who may have been a shaman or even a victim of interpersonal violence. The third is a male in the mid to late 20s also with marginal osteoarthritis of the joints and spine who may have been a ceremonial leader and village headman. The high incidence of carious lesions implies a cariogenic diet possibly rich in starchy foodstuffs or even fructose. The presence of grave goods and plaited mats suggest that at least two individuals may have been of high status. This study emphasises the significance of caves to Lucayan–Taíno mythology, cosmology and mortuary practice. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.