Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Benjamin M. Auerbach

Committee Members

Barbara J. Heath, Graciela S. Cabana, Lois Presser, Murray K. Marks


This dissertation explores disparities in stress among European Americans (EA) and between EA and African Americans (AA) in racialized communities in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Comparisons among EA and between EA and AA are conducted to understand the biological consequences of racialization. Racialization is the process of assigning people to hierarchical categories for purposes of political, social, and economic discrimination. This dissertation investigates how racialization might have affected childhood stress using biocultural theory and facets of critical archaeology theory. Indicators of stress from skeletonized individuals in the William M. Bass Donated Skeletal Collection, Hamann-Todd Osteological Collection, and the Robert J. Terry Anatomical Skeletal Collection are used in this study. These indicators represent non-specific childhood stress and include measures of the anteroposterior (AP) and transverse (TR) diameters of the ventral neural canals (VNC) of the five lumbar vertebrae as well as linear enamel hypoplasia (LEH) frequency data from the maxillary central incisors and mandibular canines. Historical sources contextualize this investigation.

The results of the finite mixture analysis (FMA) suggest that at least three phenotypically distinct groups of EA existed between 1828 and 1984. This study was not able to determine with certainty whether these EA groups represented particular racialized groups. Multiple analysis of variance (MANOVA) tests found a significant race effect with regard to late childhood /adolescent stress during the Early (1828-1881) period between EA and AA. AA had significantly smaller TR VNC diameters, suggesting they also experienced significantly more late childhood/adolescent stress. MANOVA tests also found significant sex effects during the Intermediate (1914-1945) and Late (1946-1984) periods.

One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) tests showed that early childhood stress, as demonstrated by AP VNC diameter and LEH decreased over time. ANOVA tests also showed that late childhood/adolescent stress, as demonstrated by TR VNC diameter, increased over time. The findings in this study suggest that explorations into the possible effects of racialization on population heterogeneity and stress heterogeneity are warranted and should also consider the intersection of various other identities such as sex, gender, class, language, religion, and nationality.

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