Mound versus Village: A Biocultural Investigation of Status and Health at the Cox Site
Date of Award
Master of Arts
Murray K. Marks
David G. Anderson, Lynne P. Sullivan
A good deal of what we know regarding the prehistoric Mississippian period (1000-1600 AD) in the Southeastern United States has been provided for by mortuary studies. Archaeological investigations have uncovered what appears to be differential treatment in burial practices among some subsets of community populations. The argument has been made that those individuals buried in ceremonial mounds or interred with finely crafted or exotic grave goods make up the “elite” sector of a population while those with less spectacular burial treatment are “commoners.”
The purpose of this research is to determine if health status differs by burial location at the Late Mississippian Cox site of Anderson County, Tennessee. The site consists of one mound and an associated village. This study does not assume social rank is associated with burial location, but instead adopts a biocultural perspective to ascertain if differences in health status by burial location suggest possible differences in social status.
A skeletal sample of 230 individuals was analyzed. Thirty-nine individuals were exhumed from the mound and 191 from the village. Sex, age, and health status were evaluated for each individual. Health status was determined by observing porotic hyperostosis, cribra orbitalia, dental disease, infectious disease, and linear enamel hypoplasias. An overall health score based on these characteristics was then calculated for each individual. Logistic regression as well as chi-square analyses were performed to determine any correlation between health status and burial location.
There was no statistically significant difference between burial locations as they related to overall health status. Porotic hyperostosis was the only pathology to differ significantly by burial location (p=0.0005). Dental disease, infection, and linear enamel hypoplasias affected both mound and village samples similarly. Possible evidence for the presence of both tuberculosis and treponematosis among the site’s occupants was noted. A logistic regression of health score indicated that at any given age, if an individual exhibits one less pathology, he or she is 1.5 times more likely to be buried in the mound. However, social inequality in this late prehistoric community is not supported by any findings of biological inequality.
Vogel, Juliette R., "Mound versus Village: A Biocultural Investigation of Status and Health at the Cox Site. " Master's Thesis, University of Tennessee, 2007.