The Backbone of History: Health and Nutrition in the Western Hemisphere

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Overview

The Backbone of History defines the emerging field of macrobioarchaeology by gathering, skeletal evidence on seven basic indicators of health to assess chronic conditions that affected individuals who lived in the Western Hemisphere from 5000 B.C. to the late nineteenth century. Signs of biological stress in childhood and of degeneration in joints and in teeth increased in the several millennia before the arrival of Columbus as populations moved into less healthy ecological environments. Thus, pre-Colombian Native Americans were among the healthiest and the least healthy groups to live in the Western Hemisphere before the twentieth century.
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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Studying skeletal remains from burial sites in North and South Americas, contributors attempt to reconstruct the health and nutrition of a variety of populations from pre-Columbian times to the 19th- century. Steckel (economics and anthropology, Ohio State U.) and Rose (anthropology, U. of Arkansas) present 22 works of macrobioarchaeology that first address issues of methodology such as indicators of skeletal disease and the construction of a health index. The remaining chapters look at different regional and ethnic groupings, with about half devoted to Native Americans. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From The Critics
Studying skeletal remains from burial sites in North and South Americas, contributors attempt to reconstruct the health and nutrition of a variety of populations from pre-Columbian times to the 19th- century. Steckel (economics and anthropology, Ohio State U.) and Rose (anthropology, U. of Arkansas) present 22 works of macrobioarchaeology that first address issues of methodology such as indicators of skeletal disease and the construction of a health index. The remaining chapters look at different regional and ethnic groupings, with about half devoted to Native Americans. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR
From the Publisher
"In this pathbreaking volume... more than 50 scholars (mostly anthropologists) systematically assess the health of North, South, and Central Americans using skeletal remains dating from over 7,000 years ago to the early 20th century.... Highly recommended." —Choice

"...this is a significant book that will define the emerging field of macrobioarchaeology for years to come. As such, it is required reading for all scholars interested in the study of long-term trends in human health, not only in the Americas but in the rest of the world as well." American Historical Review

"The volume;s contributions to knowledge are wide-ranging and significant." Economic History

"With this important volume, based on several years of collaborative effort, Steckel and Rose have made a major contribution to the comparative study of human health and nutrition in the Americas." Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"In this pathbreaking volume, the product of a massive NSF-funded project, more than 50 scholars (mostly anthropologists) systematically assess the health of North, South, and Central Americans using skeletal remains dating from over 7,000 years ago to the early 20th century.... Highly recommended." Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521617444
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 3/21/2005
  • Pages: 654
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 1.46 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard H. Steckel is Professor of Economics and Anthropology at Ohio State University. His most recent publications include Health and Welfare During Industrialization, which he coedited with Roderick Floud, and A Population History of the United States, which he co-edited with Michael Haines.

Jerome C. Rose is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Arkansas. He has conductedbioarcheological excavations in Illinois, Arkansas, Texas, Egypt, and Jordan.

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction 3
2 Reconstructing health profiles from skeletal remains 11
3 A health index from skeletal remains 61
4 Paleodemography of the Americas : from ancient times to colonialism and beyond 94
5 The health of the middle class : the St. Thomas' Anglican Church Cemetery project 130
6 The poor in the mid-nineteenth-century northeastern United States : evidence from the Monroe County Almshouse, Rochester, New York 162
7 The effects of nineteenth-century military service on health 185
8 The health of slaves and free blacks in the east 208
9 The quality of African-American life in the old southwest near the turn of the twentieth century 226
10 Social disruption and the Maya civilization of Mesoamerica : a study of health and economy of the last thousand years 283
11 Health and nutrition in pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica 307
12 Patterns of health and nutrition in prehistoric and historic Ecuador 343
13 Economy, nutrition, and disease in prehistoric coastal Brazil : a case study from the state of Santa Catarina 376
14 A biohistory of health and behavior in the Georgia Bight : the agricultural transition and the impact of European contact 406
15 Native Americans in eastern North America : the southern Great Lakes and Upper Ohio Valley 440
16 Cultural longevity and biological stress in the American southwest 481
17 Health nutrition, and demographic change in Native California 506
18 Welfare history on the great plains : mortality and skeletal health, 1650 to 1900 524
19 Patterns of health in the western hemisphere 563
20 Conclusions 583
21 The body as evidence; the body of evidence 593
22 Overspecialization and remedies 603
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