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Health Of American Indians On Decline Before Columbus Arrived

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Author Topic: Health Of American Indians On Decline Before Columbus Arrived  (Read 168 times)
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« on: March 22, 2009, 07:14:30 am »

The researchers share their findings on the co-evolution of humans and disease in "The Backbone of History: Health and Nutrition in the Western Hemisphere," (Cambridge University Press, 2002). Steckel edited the book with Jerome Rose, a professor of anthropology at the University of Arkansas. The project was sponsored by the National Science Foundation and Ohio State.

The book includes chapters on the health of Euro- and Afro-Americans in North America and Indians throughout North, Central and South America. The contributors gathered evidence on seven basic indicators of health used to assess chronic conditions that affected people living in the Western Hemisphere during the last 7,000 years. The health index gave researchers the basic tools to evaluate and compare the health of societies living in various ecological zones.

The index includes seven indicators of skeletal health measured at 65 locations in the Western Hemisphere: degenerative joint disease; trauma; dental health; stature; anemia; enamel hypoplasias; and skeletal infection.

Each indicator was scored from zero to 100 zero meant that the individual had had the worst possible case of the indicator, while 100 meant that the skeleton had no sign of the affliction.

The healthiest group, according to the index, lived along the coast of Brazil about 1,200 years ago. In fact, Indian groups were among the healthiest of all groups in the study indigenous sites occupied the top 14 spots of the health index, and 11 of these sites predate Columbus arrival. These sites ranged in age from 75 to 7,425 years old, and covered territory in North and South America. The groups ranged from coastal city dwellers to the Plains Indians of the American Midwest.

But Indians also accounted for some of the most unhealthy groups, occupying eight of the nine least-healthy slots on the index. The Zuni of Hawikku, New Mexico, were ranked last. At least 400 years old, this site presumably met its demise before European settlers made contact. Six other indigenous sites in the least-healthy category were dated at least 500 years before Columbus arrived.
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