Date of Award

Fall 12-2015

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Anthropology and Sociology

Committee Chair

Marie Danforth

Committee Chair Department

Anthropology and Sociology

Committee Member 2

Edwin Jackson

Committee Member 2 Department

Anthropology and Sociology

Committee Member 3

Jeffrey Kaufmann

Committee Member 3 Department

Anthropology and Sociology


The Mississippian Period (AD 1000-1539) is characterized by increasingly sedentary populations, mound building, ranked societies, and intensified agriculture. As agriculture spread throughout the Eastern Woodlands, it led to widespread health consequences, including poor nutrition and increased levels of infection. Also, environmental shifts during the Mississippian Period (AD 1000-1539) caused drier conditions, potentially leading to crop failures further exacerbating nutritional problems.

This thesis focuses on the health of the Shady Grove site in the Upper Yazoo Basin, a Middle to Late Mississippian medium sized mound center where an ossuary containing up to 100 individuals was excavated in 2010. Focusing only on the adult portion of the ossuary population, health of the population was assessed using multiple childhood and nonspecific indicators of stress including stature, linear enamel hypoplasias, anemia, and periosteal reactions. Levels of specific infection such as treponemal disease, tuberculosis, and osteomyelitis were also investigated. Analysis by bone element was conducted, and long bone minimum number of individuals ranged from 32 to 39, along with 52 isolated crania. Twenty-two reconstructed individuals using long bones were analyzed to provide data to assist making intrasite comparisons between males and females at Shady Grove, and intersite comparisons with other skeletal samples in the region.

Results suggest that Shady Grove was more nutritionally stressed than their counterparts. Mean stature was 159.2 cm for males and 149.04 cm for females, the shortest for both sexes among all the comparative groups. Linear enamel hypoplasia (LEH) were observed on 88% of left mandibular left canines, a rate which once again was very high among the populations in the region. Data regarding porotic hyperostosis (PH) and nonspecific infection was similar with Shady Grove showing the second highest frequency of each indicator relative to the comparative populations.

Reliance on maize agriculture cannot be the only contributing factor to the high rates of nutritional stress endured by the individuals at Shady Grove, but likely these findings reflect the interplay of multiple variables including subsistence strategies, political organization and climate change. The picture that emerges provides a nuanced interpretation of the effects of Mississipianization in the Upper Yazoo Valley.