ARCHAEOLOGY OF THE TILLETT SITE
OSTEOLOGICAL ANALYSIS OF THE TILLETT SITE BURIALS
R. Dale McCall*
(*Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of North Carolina-Wilmington)
In this appendix we report the results of a preliminary osteological analysis of four adult human burials from the Tillett site (31DR35) at Wanchese. Although the state of preservation varies, the bony remains are mostly poorly preserved due largely to the periodic encroachment of seawater. Reconstruction of the crania sufficient to permit taking subsets of 51 standard metric variables and 30 non-metric variables was possible for Burials 2 and 3 only. So few postcranial measurements were possible for the sample that they are referred to singly in the text. The analysis provides, in addition to those measurements, descriptions of the skeletal parts preserved, as well as estimates of age at death, sex, stature, dental attrition, and pathological conditions.
Estimation of age is a particularly unsatisfying exercise in the absence of a suitable Amerindian reference population for which the age of individuals at death is known. Further, many of the clues of age may be missing, as they are in the present sample. As the dentitions of the Tillett sample are fully adult, the degree of occlusal attrition, reported according to the scheme of Graham (1973), was the chief desideratum in our estimates of relative age. The situation is better for estimating the sex of the specimens, embracing gracility/rugosity criteria, size of femoral head, and greater sciatic notch angle, principally. Depending on the state of preservation of the specimen, more or fewer of these considerations were used. Estimation of stature also suffers from the lack of an appropriate reference population. Following what by now amounts to a tradition in human osteology, we relied for stature estimates upon the "best available substitute" defined as the human reference population presumably most closely biologically related to the 31DR35 sample. The reference groups chosen are those designated "mongoloid" by Trotter and Gleser (1952, 1958).
Some of the obstacles to accuracy when describing skeletal pathologies in archaeological populations apply to the present case: fragmentary osseous remains modified in situ, reliance upon gross observation only, and the imprecision of diagnosis based upon ignorance of the disease process. To these we must add the possibility in Burial 4 of eradication of the signs of pathology by surgical intervention or postmortem mutilation. (Page 67)
The remains, as indicated in Table A1, are incomplete and poorly preserved. At least two individuals are represented though recent mechanical mixing of previously separate burials is believed to be the cause. The bones are probably those of a young adult female(s). There are no elements well diagnostic of sex, but the gracility of the spinal elements, humerus, radius, and calcaneus compared to those of the adult male of Burial 2 for which good diagnostics are present, is consistent with the female attribution. The presence of epiphyseal fusion and fully erupted M3 suggests that adult stature had been attained and is estimated from the length of the left radius by (3.54)(23.8) + 82.0 = 166.3 cm. (5'5").
The teeth recovered could have come from one person. They show stage 2 occlusal attrition with very light wear facets on M3 providing additional evidence of relative youth in a sample characterized by extensive dental wear. Rates of wear must have been high relative to living populations since the Burial 1 specimen also shows light-to-moderate interproximal attrition on the cheek teeth. Adult status and degree of tooth wear suggest an age for the female of Burial 1 between 20 and 25 years. Another dental feature common in the 31DR35 sample and others in the region is fusion of the molar tooth roots along their entire extent.
Dental pathology, particularly tooth decay, is common in Amerindian remains of the region. The Burial 1 specimen exhibits a lateral occlusal carie on the right PM3, three or more small occlusal caries on right M1 and two on right M2. Pathologies of postcranial elements include a swollen area due to periosteal reaction about 7 cm. long on the distal third of the right tibial shaft, posterior surface, and on the left tibia an area of swelling with periosteal reaction about 8.5 cm. long involving the posterior lateral surfaces of the distal shaft (Figure A1a).
The reconstructed cranium of the individual recovered from Burial 2 is shown in front and right lateral views of Figure A2c and d. Though highly fragmented and missing the cranial base, medial and lateral orbital walls, and much of the face, which is also badly warped, the contours of the vault are maintained well enough to provide the measurements presented in Tables A2 and A3. One minor source of damage resulted from the intentional removal postmortem of flesh from the cranium, evident in the scrape marks on the left parietal. The posteranial remains, described in Table A4, are better represented than those of Burial 1 but have sustained extensive damage. (Page 68)
The remains recovered from Burial 2 are those of an adult male. Estimation of sex was derived from consideration of the attributes listed below. Implied comparisons in the following list were actually made between or among available corresponding skeletal parts of all four burials, but principally between Burials 2 and 3 which are more complete. In the Burial 2 specimen: temporal lines are larger, supraorbital ridges are more prominent, posterior roots of the zygomatic process extend past the external auditory meatus as a ridge, mastoid processes are slightly more developed, the mandibular ramus is longer, but not wider than the Burial 3 specimen, there is a greater overall degree of cranial rugosity, the atlas vertebra is slightly larger and more rugged, clavicle length is 157 mm. (compare 141 mm. for Burial 3), diameter of the femoral head is 45 mm. (compare 39 mm. for Burial 3), greater sciatic notch angles are narrow (50o left and 52o right), and preauricular sulci are not present on the ilium.
The specimen exhibits the adult features of epiphyseal fusion and M3 in occlusion. Stature estimates were made from maximum length measurements of both humeri (left, 30.3 cm.; right, 30.9 cm.), right radius (24.2 cm.), and left ulna (26.6 cm.) separately, and for each humerus in combination with the radius and then with the ulna according to the formulae of Trotter and Gleser (1958). Estimates range from 165.9 to 170 cm. Because the formulae used have differing reliabilities which cannot now be associated with the Wanchese sample, it seems safest to report the stature as 167 cm. (5' 6"), which is the mean of the four estimates that included measurements of two arm bones.
Figure A3a (left) shows occlusal wear on the mandibular teeth approximating Graham's (1973) stage 5. Also evident is substantial decrease in mesial-distal cheek tooth diameters due to interproximal attrition. The age of the specimen is indeterminate except in relation to the other burials of the sample. The Burial 2 male is, then, older than the Burial 1 female. The dentition is in place with the exception of post-mortem loss of the right M1 crown, I2, and I1, left I1 and M1 (the latter possibly due to abcess with the lingual root lost post-mortem), right PM3 and left I1. Dental pathology of the specimen is extensive, as shown in Table A5.
Among the postcranial elements, pathology appears to be confined to an area of the left clavicle involving the anterior superior aspect of the lateral half (Figure A1b). There is extensive bone destruction associated with ulcerative osteomyelitis resulting in a large (1.5 cm.) cloaca surrounded by an expanse of bone showing periosteal reaction. The appearance of the lesion suggests treponemal involvement of the sort seen in yaws and syphilis.
The cranium recovered from Burial 3 is shown in front and left lateral views in Figure A2a and b. Its condition is fair to poor even (Page 69) after extensive reconstruction.
Much of the cranial base and palate, and medial and interior orbital areas are missing. Metric and non-metric variables recorded for the specimen are presented in Tables A2 and A3, respectively. Description of the postcranial material is provided in Table A6.
The bony remains are judged to be female in agreement with the outcome of the comparisons to the Burial 2 specimen, excepting those of the hip. The woman in life was rather tall, based upon the length of the left radius (25.1 cm.) and use of Trotter and Gleser's mongoloid male regression formula (3.54) (Radius) + 82.0 = 170.9 cm. (5'7") for a stature estimate. Certainly she was adult by dental and long bone criteria. Estimating a relative age at death is complicated by the presence of rampant tooth decay. Occlusal wear approximates stage 4, suggesting an age similar to, or perhaps a little younger than the male of Burial 2. Interproximal attrition is also present but partially masked by interproximal decay. Indeed, the most arresting feature of the cranium is the extent of dental pathology which is described in Table A7 and shown in its left lateral aspect in Figure A4a. The entire dental series is present except for antemortem loss of left M2 and right Ml and M2. (Page 73)
Pathology in this specimen is not confined to the teeth and jaws. Rather, it is widespread and presents a picture consistent with treponemal infection. There is an irregular depression representing a healed lesion at the right parietal boss (see Figure A4b). Another lesion, active at the time of death, is present in an area of the frontal bone and extending to the left parietal just left of the midline and can be seen also in Figure A4b. Surrounding the area is a roughly oval area of rarified bone. The inner table at that position exhibits fenestration associated with progression of the disease. Bone loss at the center of the lesion is due partly or wholly to postmortem mechanical damage.
Post cranial manifestations of disease include the following:
Rib. Clavicle. Periostitis is manifest on a fragment of rib body. The right exhibits a smooth depression on the superior surface of the lateral shaft representing a healed focus of infection.
Radius. A right distal shaft fragment shows periostitis along the extent of the interosseous border. Another complete right radius exhibits remodeling of the shaft distal half produced by cortical bone loss at multiple infection foci and subsequent healing, further complicated by periosteal reaction and reactive cortical bone growth (Figure A1c).
Ulna. A left shaft fragment shows one healed periosteal lesion with adjacent reactive bone.
Femur. A right shaft fragment shows diffuse periosteal reaction and cortical bone loss at the site of a large healed lesion on the distal anterior shaft. The left femur is represented by two diseased fragments. On the proximal shaft fragment there is an uneven area of periosteal reactive bone. The large distal shaft fragment exhibits diffuse periosteal reaction with some cortical thickening; on the anterior distal surface two small partially healed periosteal lesions lie superior to an area of massive destruction of cortical bone with medullary cavity involvement (Figure A1d).
Fibula. A right shaft fragment shows osteomyelitis with a cloacal opening from a subperiosteal abcess bordered by massive bone reaction (Figure A1e).
The remains are highly fragmented and extremely poorly represented, as Table A8 shows. The single person recovered from (Page 74) the burial may have been a male, but the only indications are the relatively heavily built mandible and femoral shafts and femoral head diameter estimate of 42 mm. made by the shadow projection. None of the long bones is sufficiently well preserved to permit a stature estimate. The individual was an adult, the oldest of the Wanchese sample judging from the stage 7 dental wear and pronounced interproximal attrition. Occlusal wear had proceeded so far as to provoke the deposition of.secondary dentine (Figure A3a, right). Another clue to more advanced chronological age is the presence of osteoarthritis in the right ulna.
Periodontal disease is the only dental pathology noted. The disease appears to have been moderately well advanced with teeth showing calculus deposits extending to the root apices (Figure A3b). Alveolar resorption is present in the mandible but the extent is partially obscured by postmortem mechanical damage to the alveolus.
On the right ulna there is evidence of osteoarthritis involving the semilunar notch and radial notch, both of which exhibit osteophytic lipping (Figure A1f). Osteophytosis extends to an area inferior and lateral to the coronoid process. Periosteal reactive bone is present on the proximal lateral surface. The left femoral shaft shows, on the distal postero-lateral surface, a large lesion, possibly gummatous, that penetrates to the medullary cavity (Figure A1g). Six centimeters superior to the lesion on the anterior surface a centimeter-wide section of bone has been removed by abrasive incision (see Figure A1h). The parallel-sided cuts were made at an acute angle to the long axis of the shaft. About 2.5 cm. superior to the cut there is evidence of a tentative shallow incision on the bone. Unlike the signs of cranial "fleshing" seen on the Burial 2 specimen, and commonly on Amerindian remains on the region, the motivation for the mutilation of the Burial 4 femur is unknown.
It remains to supplement the known cultural associations of the crania of 31DR35 Burials 2 and 3 with preliminary estimates of their biological population affinities. Table A9 shows a stem-and-leaf plot (Tukey 1977) of standardized deviates* for cranial metrics of the two 31DR35 specimens using as the reference population the 31CK9 Burial 1 adult sample from ossuary Burial 1 at the Baum site, 31CK9 (phelps 1983:40-42) in which the sexes were treated separately. This population sample is among others being analyzed as part of the current project.
The relative smallness of the Burial 2 male and the largeness of the Burial 3 female from the Tillett site are probably partly due to bias in the sexing of the 31CK9 Burial 1 sample: 8 of 34 adult crania are presently classified as "indeterminate". Even so, both of the Wanchese crania could be accommodated within the 31CK9 "Algonkin" sample, excepting only the extreme deviation of the bicondylar width measurements that for the male is "too small", i.e.., more than 3 standard deviation units below the 31CK9 mean, and for the female is "too large" by the same criterion. The "deviant" metrics are not the result of pathology or postmortem deformation or mismatch of the mandibles or errors in reconstruction. Considering the postcranial evidence as well, it is unlikely that mistaken attribution of sex in the Tillett site specimens is the cause of the large deviations.
A wider comparison among Amerindian archaeological samples is presented in Table A10, although for a restricted set of cranial variables expressed as standardized deviations from the 31CK9 Burial 1 "Algonkin" sample. Included among these samples are Neumann's (1952) "Lenapids" and "Iswanids", Hrdlicka's (1916) Munsee "Algonkins", historic Siouan specimens Mgv3, Rkvl2, and Orv11 (Coe et al 1982) and specimens for which population affinities have not yet been firmly grounded: 31CK9 Burial 3 (phelps 1983:33), and Bwo67 Burial 1 (Coe et al 1982).
The "Lenapids", Munsee, 31DR35, and 31CK9 samples appear to form a natural group that is differentiable from another comprising the "Iswanid" and Orv11 samples, principally in respect of cranial length. More problematical are the specimens from Mgv3 and Rkvl2, and the BWo67 female is different from "Algonkins" by virtue of the vault breadth. From this comparison the rationale for including the 31DR35 crania under the rubric "Algonkin" appears more secure.
Presented in Table A11, for the sake of historical continuity, are some cranial indices for the Wanchese crania and other Amerindian archaeological samples previously reported to be "Algonkin" or "Siouan" varieties or to exhibit affinity with either. There appears to be trends toward higher values for the cranial index and length-height index among the "Siouan" samples and for the cranial module among the "Algonkin" samples. The Tillett site Burial 2 male's cranial index places him at the lower, "Algonkin", extreme of the Table A11 samples.
The morphology of the 31CK9 crania are compatible with the partly impressionistic description by Neumann (1952) of "Lenapids" and Hrdlicka's (1916) description of "Algonkins": the 31CK9 male is dolicocephalic, muscularly robust, and prominent at glabella and (Page 76) above the orbits. However, in two madibular dimensions-- symphyseal height and bicondylar width--the specimen is notably small. The 31CK9 female, although mesocranic, is decidedly robust especially in mandibular measurements in comparison to other "Algonkin" female crania which, in turn, are more robust than their "Siouan" counterparts. In sum, the 31DR35 crania exhibit characteristics that ally them more closely with "Algonkin" than "Siouan" crania.
Four separate Amerindian burials were recovered from site 31DR35. The remains--incomplete and poorly preserved--are of adults for which the age at death follows the order:Burial 1 Female <, Burial 2 Malt ?, Burial 3 Female <, Burial 4 (Male ?). Stature estimates range from 1.66m for Burial 1 to 1.67m for Burial 2, to 1.7m for Burial 3.
For all four individuals the degree of dental attrition suggests an abrasive diet and powerful mastication. Dental caries are present in 1, and in 2 and 3 along with periapical abcesses. Periodontal disease is evident in 2, 3, and 4. Postcranial pathology is present in all but may include treponemal involvement in 2, 3 (with cranial manifestations), and 4.
A preliminary estimate of biological population affinity for the relatively complete crania of Burials 2 and 3 suggests that they are properly considered "Algonkin", or "Lenapid". (Page 77)
Carolina Algonkian Project, All Rights Reserved