Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

William M. Bass

Committee Members

Richard Jantz, Fred Smith, Gerald Schroedl


The purpose of this study was to present osteological information for the skeletal remains from Toqua, a Late Mississippian site representative of the Dallas Focus, and to assess these data from a biocultural perspective. Analytical considerations included aspects of paleodemography (examination of mortality by life table analysis), metrics and morphology (measurements and indices, stature, and cranial deformation), and paleopathology (porotic hyperostosis, periosteal reactions, and other pathological conditions that were simply described).

Analyses were conducted for the total skeletal series (N=439) in order to assess general conditions of mortality and morbidity for the population as a whole and along age and sex lines. Further analyses pertained to differences between archaeologically-defined status groups, that is, between mound (N=139), village (N=285), and Structure 3 (N=15) individuals. Structure 3 is purported to be a late occurring structure in the Dallas occupation at Toqua for which some of the burials exhibit indicators of high status. The status comparisons are predicated on a general chiefdom model in which status is largely ascribed rather than achieved. An adjunct to the hypothesis of ascribed status is that high-status (i.e., mound) individuals may have received preferential treatment in the form of differential access to more nutritionally sound foodstuffs, better health care, etc.

Examination of vital statistics for the total skeletal series showed extremely high infant and childhood mortality. Relatively high frequencies of cribra orbitalia and calvarial porotic hyperostosis among the total series attested to probable endemic proportions of iron-deficiency anemia, presumably resulting from an intense reliance on maize for subsistence. Tests for differences in the incidence of both types of lesions among infant and children and between younger and older individuals demonstrated the deleterious effects of iron-deficiency anemia on mortality and morbidity of infants and children. Frequencies of bones exhibiting periosteal lesions were significantly greater among young individuals, a feature that probably relates to the effects of acute infectious diseases during the early years of life. Village females showed significantly lower frequencies of cribra orbitalia and calvarial porotic hyperostosis than village males. Males and females for the total series also differed significantly when age, sex, and frequencies of periosteal reactions were considered simultaneously.

Dietary, nutritional, and general health relationships among the Toqua inhabitants revealed that preferential treatment of high status individuals could not be ascertained from the biological data. Thus, with the exception of the cultural practice of intentional cranial deformation, status comparisons, including aspects of mortality, stature, incidences of porotic hyperostosis, and frequencies of periosteal reactions, suggested that high-status individuals may have achieved status rather than having it conferred upon them at birth, although this does not entirely preclude the possibility of a single high ranking kinship group existing at Toqua.

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