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Abstract

Bioarchaeological studies have suggested a general trend whereby the health of past populations degraded as they transitioned from a nomadic, hunter-gatherer lifestyle to a sedentary, agricultural lifestyle. Ancient societies of northern Chile provide a unique perspective on this debate in that while the earliest societies relied on hunting and gathering they were at the same time sedentary. Furthermore, later agricultural Chilean societies had relatively balanced diets since they also relied on fishing. Thus, this study examined four skeletal markers of health on sixty-one subadults ranging from the Archaic (7000-1000 B.C.) to Late Horizon (A.D. 1476-1532) periods in order to prove the impact of subsistence strategies and social organization on individuals’ health. These health markers were cribra orbitalia and porotic hyperostosis, trauma, dental pathological conditions, and infections. Despite the small sample size, this study gives a glimpse of childhood health conditions and morbidity patterns in northern Chile. The results showed no statistical differences of morbidity patterns between preagricultural and agricultural societies, a contradiction to previous assumptions about morbidity differences between preagricultural and agricultural societies.

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