Bioarchaeology of the Florida Gulf Coast: Adaptation, Conflict and Change

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Bioarchaeology of the Florida Gulf Coast: Adaptation, Conflict and Change. DALE L. HUTCHINSON. University Press of Rorida, Gainesville, 2004. 288 pp., maps, tables, figures, appendices. $59.95 (cloth), ISBN 0-8130-2706-3.

Reviewed by Murray K. Marks

The first of six chapters of Bioarchaeology of the Florida Gulf Coast provides an introduction to approaching a regional and pan-regional bioarchaeological model for understanding adaptation in prehistoric Rorida skeletal series. This synthesis sets the stage for the entire volume derived from intertwined ecological themes revealing a unique maritime coastal adaptation characterized by a temporally pervasive environment affecting all populations with maize horticultural adoption occurring rather late in prehistory. One of the most exciting elements of the model is the ecological theme using four supporting hypotheses tested by specific skeletal and dental data sets.

The first hypothesis focuses on a diet reliant upon marine plants and animals, which is tested using carbon and nitrogen isotopes (analysis by Lynette Norr) and dental enamel microwear (analysis by Mark Teaford). Hypothesis two focuses on explaining the differential pathological lesion frequencies resulting from localized resource exploitation. Here, the data sets include caries, alveolar infection, dental chipping, porotic hyperostosis, enamel hypoplasia, proliferative responses, and osteoarthritis and external acoustic exostoses. With these data sets, save exostoses, and including trauma rates, hypothesis three explores the differing nutrition and disease experience and their chronological patterning between interior and coastal populations. Hypothesis four targets the differential expression in diet, pathological lesions and behavioral alterations between males and females using the carbon and nitrogen isotopie analyses and examining the frequencies of carious lesions, alveolar infection, dental chipping, proliferative responses, osteoarthritis, external acoustic exostoses and trauma.

The second chapter presents the key physiographic regions of the Rorida Gulf Coast environment followed by the archaeological and culture history of the region. This rich synthesis provides the essential kernel for understanding the ecologically derived themes and the hypotheses outlined in chapter 1. This geophysical foundation is one of the highlights of the volume demonstrating the ideal setting for the evaluation and interpretation of skeletal remains. And even though those skeletal collections are limited to "discrete studies of small populations," the author's methodology provides a sterling example of archaeologically and ecologically derived and driven research.

Chapter 3 examines the long-term historical interest in the archaeology and bioarchaeology of the shell middens and burial mound known as the Palmer site (8S02), the main skeletal collection analyzed for the volume. Attention to Palmer and the entire historic Spanish Point region, which includes Palmer, has been ongoing since the middle nineteenth century and continued with Hrdlicka's early-twentieth-century excavations and examinations of bones and Willey's report on the collection in his 1949 volume, Archaeology of the Florida Gulf Coast. Several field seasons (1959-62) and more recent surveys (1974, 1979-80) have been performed with excavation of the main burial mound producing 429 individuals. From previous research, assessment of MNI, taphonomy, preservation and population structure and demography, especially in tight of the biased number of adults to subadults, 346 to 46, respectively, denote the majority of the burial mound usage to be between A.D. 500-800.

Subscribing to traditional bioarchaeological cannons of analysis, chapter 4 provides the paleopathological method of analysis, results and interpretation of the dietary and nutritional assessment via these data sets with comparisons of nutrition and disease for Rorida Gulf Coast populations. …