Sociology and Anthropology
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Congratulations to Hilarie K. Huley!

Mason MA Student wins Cockburn Student Poster Prize at the 2017 Paleopathology Meeting

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Hilarie K. Huley, an MA student in Anthropology at George Mason University, was awarded the prestigious Cockburn Student Research Prize for her work as lead author on a poster presentation at the 44th Annual North American Meeting of the Paleopathology Association. She competed against 33 other MA and Ph.D. students from around the world. Her work examined the skeletal evidence of diet, economy, and ancient health in northern Peru. As part of the award, Huley took home a large stash of paleopathology-related books!  The abstract of the presentation is below: 


Paleopathology of the Ventarrón Complex: Biological Stress, Diet, and Subsistence Economy at the Origins of Social Complexity in the Lambayeque Valley, Peru.


Hilarie K. HULEY, Haagen D. KLAUS, Ignacio ALVA MENESES, Steven BALL, Gabriel M. BROWN, Allison HAM, Jaclyn THOMAS & Johanna E. YOUNG


Complex societies began to develop on the north coast of Peru around 2600 B.C., and much debate surrounds this process.  Particularly, past work hypothesized that early Andean civilizations

were based on maritime resources  – rather than an agriculturally  focused economy. However, it has been exceedingly difficult to provide a paleopathological test of this hypothesis, as Formative era

skeletons are very rare in the archaeological record. Excavation since 2006 at the Ventarrón archaeological complex (Lambayeque Valley, north coast Peru) have produced a diachronic skeletal sample consisting of 171 individuals spanning the Formative era into the 10th century A.D. These individuals were scored for evidence of cribra orbitalia, porotic hyperostosis, scurvy, enamel hypoplasias, periostosis, dental caries, antemortem tooth loss, and calculus.


Initial crude prevalence results demonstrate that the Formative era individuals ( ~1500 -650 B.C.) demonstrated a near total lack of skeletal pathology and possessed excellent oral health. By the Moche, and Sicán periods (~100-1100 A.D., intensive irrigation agriculture progressively emerged as the dominant mode of food production, and increasing prevalence of childhood anemia, growth disruptions, and a significant decline in oral health were observed. These observations, especially the oral health data contextualized within the broader diachronic sequence, generate a working hypothesis that early social complexity at Ventarrón was indeed associated with exploitation of marine resources or other nonstarchy foods and that health progressively decreased over time as irrigation agriculture became an ascendent form of food production. Moreover, these observations allow for a more holistic understanding of later shifts in subsistence economy and the interplay between Andean societies and their unique environments.

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