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The Application of Dental Anthropology to Population Dynamics, Economy and Health in the Prehispanic Canary Islands

Owens, Lawrence Stuart; (2004) The Application of Dental Anthropology to Population Dynamics, Economy and Health in the Prehispanic Canary Islands. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This is a dental anthropology study of prehispanic (pre. 1400 AD) societies in the Canary Islands, comprising the analysis of morphology (ASUDAS dental scoring system) and pathology (dental caries and hypoplasia; cranial trauma) to examine population biology, diet, behaviour and health. The study was configured temporo-spatially, employed demographic variables, and was contextualised using archaeological, ecological and historical data. An MNI of 896 individuals was examined. Biologically, the Canarians appear to have been temporo-spatially homogenous; except for minor fluctuations probably caused by influxes from the mainland, the island populations were probably always socially interlinked and were not therefore a series of isolates as previously believed. The marked cultural diversity in the archipelago is therefore more likely to be the result of promulgating socio-political autonomy (at certain points at least) rather than involuntary socio-cultural isolation. Dental pathology suggested a diet intermediate between agriculture and foraging, with a relatively low caries rate that was probably linked to the consumption of dairy produce. There were minor differences between the sexes (the exact significance of this is unclear) and little evidence for temporal trends. While there was considerable variability in economic signatures, probably partially dictated by ecology and environment, there appears to have been considerable leeway in the manner that Native Canarians configured their lives. Populations were generally healthy, with the highest prevalence of hypoplasia being found in densely-populated islands that may have been vulnerable to economic stress linked to the islands erratic climatic regime. All islands show a hypoplasia peak in late childhood and early adolescence, possibly reflecting social maturation/independence. Health did not differ conspicuously between the sexes, and there was no significant temporal trend in hypoplasia prevalence. Cranial trauma was very common and spatially variable in the Canarian archipelago, with higher overall prevalence in densely populated islands. Males possessed higher prevalence of trauma than females; there was no temporal trend. Judging from the appearance and distribution of the lesions, much of the trauma seems to have been caused by inter-personal conflict. This study provides an array of information concerning Native Canarian lifestyle and behaviour, and has implications for the development of Canarian archaeology, general island archaeology and also the study of how ecology and sociality can determine pattern and process in human adaptation.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: The Application of Dental Anthropology to Population Dynamics, Economy and Health in the Prehispanic Canary Islands
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by ProQuest.
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10114976
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