My work in skeletal biology applies insights drawn from health studies of modern humans to the study of ancient peoples. I am particularly interested in the infectious diseases that affect the skeleton and in developmental defects in the teeth. I began working in 1970 on the relationship between subsistence and health by comparing limb bone lengths, and by inference, stature, in children from two prehistoric Midwestern cemetery sites that pre-dated and post-dated the beginning of heavy dependence on maize. Was the hunting and gathering way of life the original good life, as it is often portrayed?
My most recent work with several colleagues applies ancient DNA technology to understanding the epidemiology of tuberculosis among Mississippian maize farmers.
More recently I have explored evidence for congenital transmission of treponemal disease in later prehistory in the Americas as well as in slave populations from Barbados.
I am interested in mortuary practices, and have written on funerary masks and house floor burials, artifacts made from human bones, and osteobiography of unusual persons in the ancient Midwest.
Geographical Areas of Specialization:
- human osteology; paleopathology; mortuary practices; demography