SKELETAL STRESS MARKERS AND SUBSISTENCE STRATEGY IN PREHISTORIC CHILEAN POPULATIONS OF THE SEMI-ARID NORTH
MARCADORES DE ESTRÉS ESQUELÉTICO Y ESTRATEGIA DE SUBSISTENCIA EN POBLACIONES CHILENAS PREHISTÓRICAS DEL NORTE SEMIÁRIDO
Elizabeth A. DiGangi and Ariel Gruenthal-Rankin
Human skeletal remains from prehistoric Chile’s semi-arid north were analyzed using the Western Hemisphere Health Index to ascertain if subsistence change from gathering/hunting to agriculture was accompanied by a decline in physiological stress as measured by common skeletal stress markers for these coastal populations. Individuals analyzed dated to the Archaic (c. 7000 BC-200 AD, n=95) and Diaguita (c. 1000-1536 AD, n=75) periods. The Archaic individuals practiced gathering and hunting subsistence, relying on desert and ocean resources. The Diaguita practiced a subsistence strategy including agriculture, food collecting from the Pacific, and camelid pastoralism. As per health index methodology, seven indicators were scored (stature, linear enamel hypoplasia, dental disease, cribra orbitalia/porotic hyperostosis, infection, degenerative joint disease, and trau- ma). Results indicated equal health index values for both samples, although there were some differences in individual indicator values. The risk of having any pathology did not increase with age-at-death. Essentially, health as measured by common stress markers did not vary substantially after subsistence change. Such results are further evidence that the hypothesis of a health decline after subsistence change to agriculture is not always demonstrated, and it is important to elucidate what buffering variables beyond diet, to include cultural adaptations, may be at play.