Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Fred H. Smith

Committee Members

Gerald F. Schroedl, Richard Jantz, William Bass


This study examines the biological characteristics of the Late Mississippian Mouse Creek Phase skeletal series of Ledford Island, Rymer and Mouse Creek and relates them to other Late Mississippian skeletal populations (the Toqua and Averbuch samples) by using a comparative and holistic approach. The purpose of the study is to assess the biological relationships between these populations, based on the multidimensional biological variables of paleo-demography, stature, paleopathology and craniometrics.

No evidence of significant Mouse Creek Phase demographic stress was found. All of the Mouse Creek Phase site populations exhibited low mortality, probability of death, and crude mortality rates and high survivorship and life expectancy values. In contrast, the Toqua and Averbuch populations manifested substantially greater degrees of demographic stress.

Stature estimates based on maximum femur lengths from all of the Mouse Creek Phase sites compared favorably to those recorded for other low-stressed Amerindian populations. No evidence of significantly reduced stature possible indicative of environmental (nutritional) stress was found. In the comparative analysis, Averbuch and Mouse Creek Phase females differed significantly from each other and from all other sex and site groups.

Pathology class incidence was low across all of the Mouse Creek Phase sites, with Ledford Island exhibiting the lowest (age-related) and Rymer the highest (infectious disease- and trauma-related) incidences. Pathology class incidences for all the Mouse Creek Phase sites were not nearly as high as expected for young subadults. Porotic hyperostosis/cribra orbitalia frequencies were significantly higher at Toqua than at Averbuch or the Mouse Creek Phase sites. Differential utilization of maize across the three populations or the erroneous association of these disease states necessarily with maize utilization were offered as possible explanations for the observed differences. A similar result in the periostitis frequency comparison was explained in terms of the greater length of occupation, more dense settlement distribution, and more central location of the Toqua site, resulting in higher possibilities of bacterial infection.

Finally, genetic relationships between these populations were explored via a canonical discriminant analysis of selected Toqua, Averbuch and Mouse Creek Phase site crania using eight cranio-facial measurements. Biological relatedness was suggested between many of the Mouse Creek crania and Toqua crania. Mouse Creek Phase and Toqua male crania showed similarities to each other, while crania from Mouse Creek Phase, Toqua and Averbuch females exhibited distinct differences. No evidence was found suggesting a close Mouse Creek Phase-Averbuch cranial association. These results, in combination with available archaeological data, strongly question the Mouse Creek-Middle Cumberland connection established by Lewis and Kneberg.

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