A paleopathological and mortuary analysis of three Precontact burials from southern Saskatchewan
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There is relatively little interment information available for the Middle and Late Middle Precontact Periods and even less for the Early Precontact and Early Middle Precontact Periods in Southern Saskatchewan. The Stoney Beach, Fox Valley and Adamiak sites provide some data on paleopathology and mortuary practices and contribute to this data set in order to try to create a more complete picture of health and mortuary practices during Precontact times in southern Saskatchewan. The Stoney Beach site appears to be the oldest interment found in Saskatchewan and one of the oldest on the Northern Plains. Stoney Beach is classified as an Early Middle Precontact Period inhumation due to a radiocarbon date of 6050±40 B.P. and represents a primary burial orientated southeast-northwest with an adult female between the ages of thirty and thirty five found in a flexed position and an infant between 9.2 and 10.2 lunar months found near the knees. Associated cultural material included bison and canid remains, a shell pendant, and red ochre. The adult female had calculus deposition, attrition/abrasion, and slight periodontal disease. As well, there was minor osteophyte formation on the fourth lumbar vertebra and an abnormal peroneal process of the left calcaneus possibly related to an ankle injury such as a strain, and a possibly transacted fifth metacarpal. The association of the female and infant and the young age of the child may indicate that they both died due to obstetric problems, possible representing a coffin birth. The Fox Valley interment is a shallow, secondary bundle burial containing at least four individuals beneath a rock cairn. A radiocarbon date of 2410±40 B.P. is congruent with a Late Middle Precontact burial and the mortuary practices and associated grave goods (a tubular pipe, a flake, red ochre, and whooping crane remains) indicate the Fox Valley burial to be a probable Pelican Lake site. This thesis identifies the past existence and rare inclusion of whooping cranes in archaeological sites and contributes to knowledge of whooping crane use in Precontact cultures. Out of the minimum of four individuals only one could be analyzed in detail and was determined to be an adult male between the ages of thirty and forty. Dental conditions present included dental attrition, slight periodontal disease, tooth crowding, and an abscess. The other pathological condition present was osteomyelitis of the distal left femur and humerus. The Adamiak cranium cannot be placed culturally as it had no associated material or a known provenience. However, it is Native American in origin, of antiquity, and displays a unique pathology and therefore is important to this thesis. The Adamiak cranium belongs to a 35 to 45 year old female with poor dentition (enamel hypoplasia, calculus deposition, attrition, and alveolar resorption subsequent to antemortem tooth loss) and displays biparietal thinning which has been observed in many parts of the world but rarely on the Plains. This condition has an unknown etiology but may be related to osteoporosis, vascular constriction, or normal variation. In the future when causation is determined, the information gathered in this thesis may be used to better understand this pathology. These three sites help to expand and contribute to the data for health and mortuary practices from the Middle Precontact Period in Saskatchewan. With the use of comparative sites trends in mortuary practices can be suggested.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
DepartmentArchaeology and Anthropology
SupervisorWalker, Ernest G.
CommitteeKennedy, Margaret; Lieverse, Angela; Hackett, Paul
Copyright DateAugust 2012
Paleopathology Mortuary Practices