Get access

Degenerative Joint Disease and Social Status in the Terminal Late Archaic Period (1000–500 b.c.) of Ohio


Correspondence to: Department of Anthropology, College of Social Sciences, Seoul National University, San 56-1, Sillim-dong, Gwanak-gu, Seoul, Korea, 151-742.



This research presents an analysis of the inferred Late Archaic social structure in Ohio based on degenerative joint disease (DJD, also known as osteoarthritis) and mortuary practices. We tested the hypothesis that mechanical loading involving physical activities is differentially distributed in a population along levels or types of social stratification. This hypothesis was investigated via statistical treatment of DJD as a skeletal stress marker of activity, its occurrence by age and sex, an association with grave goods, and spatial distribution in terminal Late Archaic cemeteries. The skeletal samples used in this study came from three cemeteries, the Boose, Kirian-Treglia (KT), and Duff sites, dating to the Ohio terminal Late Archaic period.

In general, the high overall prevalence of DJD in these people indicates that this population led a rigorous life. This study hypothesized that the burials in the Late Archaic period in Ohio might be socially patterned as evidenced from the unequal distribution of grave goods and skeletal variability in DJD. Nevertheless, the analyses suggest that there is no statistical association between DJD and mortuary practices including grave goods and burial location in a cemetery. As observed in numerous hunter–gatherer populations, the societies in our sample were also characterized by the absence of a marked social stratification. The results suggest that there were only ‘natural inequalities’ in Late Archaic societies due to biological factors, such as age and sex. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.