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The Bioarchaeology of Gendered Social Processes Among Pre- and Post-Contact Native Americans: An Analysis of Mortuary Patterns, Health, and Activity in the Ohio Valley

Wakefield-Murphy, Robyn (2017) The Bioarchaeology of Gendered Social Processes Among Pre- and Post-Contact Native Americans: An Analysis of Mortuary Patterns, Health, and Activity in the Ohio Valley. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation employs a gendered theoretical perspective to examine the interaction between social status and biological processes in light of social change (subsistence, environment, and contact) in the Ohio Valley region of North America throughout five time periods: Early Woodland (3000BP-2200BP), Early Monongahela (1150AD-1250AD), Middle Monongahela (1250-1580AD), Late Monongahela (1580- 1635AD) and Post-Contact (1756AD-1778AD) periods. Burial data (body position, orientation, location) from site reports was integrated with data from skeletal analysis (n=330). Age and sex estimation were utilized to determine demographic structure. Skeletal and dental pathology was assessed to evaluate population health, and musculoskeletal stress markers (MSMs) were examined to infer activity patterns. Two cluster analyses were performed: traditional mortuary clustering (burial data by biological sex) and biosocial clustering (burial data, skeletal data, age and sex).
During the Early Woodland, there was little differentiation in activity, health, and burial pattern by sex or age. An elite burial class was revealed, likely tied to shamanistic practitioners, representing a third gender. Among the Monongahela, older adults may have had a higher status in the Early and Middle periods, with no differentiation by age or sex in the Late period. The Monongahela group employed a system of gender equality, with emerging status in later adulthood. Activity patterns demonstrated that males performed more hunting related activities with both sexes involved in craft production and agricultural labor, with intensification in these patterns in the Late period initiated by climate change. European contact had a detrimental effect on health for the post-contact Delaware as indicated by a catastrophic mortality assemblage. No differences in male and female MSMs were found among the Post-Contact group, and overall robusticity was lower than earlier periods. Although there is historical evidence of male leaders among the Delaware, this was not reflected in burial or activity patterns. This research is significant as it presents a diachronic view of gender, social status, and biological status integrating current theoretical models to infer nuanced aspects of biosocial life among indigenous Ohio Valley groups before and after contact.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Wakefield-Murphy, Robynrkw5@pitt.edurkw5
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairJudd, Margaretmjudd@pitt.edumjudd
Committee MemberAllen, Kathleenkmallen@pitt.edukmallen
Committee MemberMooney, Markmpm4@pitt.edumpm4
Committee MemberRichardson,
Date: 28 September 2017
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 28 April 2017
Approval Date: 28 September 2017
Submission Date: 7 August 2017
Access Restriction: 1 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 1 year.
Number of Pages: 510
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Anthropology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: bioarchaeology, mortuary archaeology, gender archaeology, paleopathology, bioarchaeology of Native Americans, Monongahela
Date Deposited: 29 Sep 2017 01:05
Last Modified: 28 Sep 2018 05:15


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