Dental Pathologies and Diet in the Middle Woodland Burials from Helena Crossing, ArkansasNorth American Archaeologist

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Authors
Marta P. Alfonso-Durruty, Jennifer Bauder, Bretton Giles
Year
2014
DOI
10.2190/NA.35.1.d
Subject
Archaeology / Archaeology

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Text

DENTAL PATHOLOGIES AND DIET IN THE

MIDDLE WOODLAND BURIALS FROM

HELENA CROSSING, ARKANSAS

MARTA P. ALFONSO-DURRUTY

Kansas State University

JENNIFER BAUDER

MassBay Community College

BRETTON GILES

Kansas State University and

Colorado State University

ABSTRACT

The goal of this study is to evaluate dental lesions and infer the diet of those interred at Helena Crossing, Arkansas. Helena Crossing is located in

Southeastern North America and dates to the Middle Woodland Period (150 B.C. ± 75–A.D. 335 ± 75). Until now, no systematic dental analysis has been done in this group. For the purpose of this study, all remains were macroscopically examined for age, sex, and dental pathologies. Adult teeth presented antemortem tooth loss (AMTL; 8.3%), dental wear (100%; mode = 3), alveolar resorption (100%; x = 3.0), calculus deposits (44.8%), hypoplastic defects (12.2%), and caries (11.8%). Subadult teeth were slightly worn (70.5%; x = 2), and showed small calculus deposits (25.6%; x = 1.1), caries (2.5%), and hypoplastic defects (16.4%). The results show that those buried at Helena Crossing ate a diet that was soft, well cooked, and possibly rich in carbohydrates, where domesticated plants may have been an important component. 87  2014, Baywood Publishing Co., Inc. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.2190/NA.35.1.d http://baywood.com

NORTH AMERICAN ARCHAEOLOGIST, Vol. 35(1) 87-108, 2014

INTRODUCTION

This article examines the dental lesions of the Middle Woodland people interred in Helena Crossing Mounds B and C, in eastern Arkansas (Ford, 1963; Giles et al., 2010; Mainfort, 1988; Toth, 1988). The inferences concerning dental conditions in these Middle Woodland people are important because there is a scarcity of adequately analyzed skeletal samples from this time period in the

Central and Lower Mississippi River Valleys, as well as correspondingly limited information about their diet and health (Giles et al., 2010; Rose and Harmon, 1999). Excavations at Marksville and Reno Break have documented an absence of indigenous domesticates in the Lower Mississippi River

Valley during the Middle Woodland period, which suggests that Marksville peoples were not food producers (Fritz and Kidder, 1993; Gremillion, 2011;

Kidder, 2002; McGimsey et al., 1999). In contrast, Middle Woodland groups in Ohio, Illinois, and Tennessee cultivated a variety of indigenous domesticates to supplement other components of their diet (Fritz, 1993; Scarry and

Yarnell, 2011; Smith, 1992, 2005; Wymer, 1993, 1996, 1997; Yerkes 2005).

It is also ambiguous whether raising and consuming Eastern Woodlands indigenous domesticates negatively affected the dental health of Hopewell people. For example, Sciulli (1997) did not identify increased caries rates in

Late Archaic, Early Woodland, and Middle Woodland groups from the Central

Ohio River Valley (CORV); time periods in which some domesticates were present (cf. Fritz, 1993; Gremillion, 2002, 2011; Smith, 2005; Yerkes, 2005). This article compares the results of our dental analysis to the evidence for domesticates and dental health in the Central and Lower Mississippi River

Valleys, as well as to the Central Ohio River during the Middle Woodland period, circa 100 BC to 400 CE.

Our analysis documents a relatively high rate of caries that suggests that the Middle Woodland peoples interred at Helena Crossing ate a diet that may have been rich in carbohydrates. This caries rate is higher than those observed in Sciulli’s (1997) Early and Middle Woodland samples. Yet it is similar to subsequent Late Woodland, Coles Creek groups from the Lower Mississippi

River Valley (cf. Rose and Harmon, 1999; Rose and Marks, 1985). Other dental indices, such as degree of dental wear and the frequency of fractures and chipping, indicate that this Middle Woodland group was consuming a soft diet. Given the relatively high caries rate and other dental indices, Middle Woodland people in the vicinity of Helena Crossing may have been eating indigenous domesticates that are carbohydrate rich. Yet it is also possible that these dental pathologies resulted from the way in which they prepared their food. The results presented here widen our understanding of the interregional variability in the dental health of the Eastern Woodlands peoples. We hope that this analysis will stimulate additional work on the dental health and diet of Middle Woodland groups from the Central and Lower Mississippi River Valleys. 88 / ALFONSO-DURRUTY, BAUDER AND GILES

BACKGROUND

The Helena Crossing site is located on Crowley’s Ridge above the confluence of the St. Francis and Mississippi rivers in eastern Arkansas (Figure 1). The site is situated at the border between the Central Mississippi River Valley (CMRV)

MIDDLE WOODLAND DENTAL HEALTH AND DIET / 89

Figure 1. Location of Helena Crossing in the South Eastern United States. and Lower Mississippi River Valley (LMRV). Ford’s (1963) excavation of

Helena Crossing Mounds B and C revealed a series of burials interred in log crypts, tombs, mound fill, and on primary mound surfaces. The radiocarbon dates for the site (—1197 150 B.C. ± 75, —1199 A.D. 20 ± 75, —1196 A.D. 210 ± 75, and —1198 A.D. 335 ± 75) and associated grave goods indicate that Helena

Crossing was used as a burial ground during the early Middle Woodland period (Giles et al., 2010; Mainfort, 1996; Morse and Morse, 1983; Rolingson and

Mainfort, 2002; Toth, 1988).

The Middle Woodland period (100 B.C– A.D. 400), marked by the appearance of characteristic pottery styles (Stoltman, 1978), is associated with a peak in mound building, ceremonialism, and intense interregional interaction in eastern

North America (Kidder, 2004; Mainfort, 1996; Rolingson, 2004). Archaeological analyses suggest that Middle Woodland people employed varied settlement and subsistence strategies that range from itinerant hunter-gatherers to food producers that possibly lived in semi-sedentary farmsteads and cultivated indigenous domesticates (Fritz, 1993; Smith, 1992, 2005; Wymer, 1993, 1996 1997; Yerkes 2005). Near Helena Crossing, Middle Woodland groups have been characterized as hunter-gatherers who exploited a variety of vegetal and faunal resources (Fritz and Kidder, 1993; Kidder 2002; Rolingson, 2004; Rolingson and Mainfort, 2002; Toth, 1988). Excavations at Marksville sites, to the South, indicate that these Middle Woodland peoples gathered wild plants, such as hickory, acorn, persimmon, American lotus, goosefoot, and palmetto (Lewis, 1996; McGimsey et al., 1999). White tail deer was commonly consumed at Helena Crossing and the Marksville (type) site (Ford 1963; McGimsey et al., 1999). At Marksville,