Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Committee Member

Debra L. Martin

Second Committee Member

Barbara J. Roth

Third Committee Member

Liam Frink

Fourth Committee Member

Janet Dufek

Number of Pages



Interpersonal conflict, social control, and culturally sanctioned violence are all potential modes of effecting change amongst most human groups. This research investigates the complex relationship between interpersonal violence, human skeletal biology, and social identity among prehistoric agricultural communities in the American Southwest. Using bioarchaeology as a research framework, the data presented in this study reveal patterns that can be used to better understand how violence is utilized or avoided in any time period. Bioarchaeology is well suited to investigate violence because it integrates the most direct evidence of conflict (traumatic skeletal injury) with detailed archaeological reconstructions of past human experiences.

A comprehensive assessment of Mimbres health, activity, and interpersonal violence was completed using data from a sample of 247 adult human burials from 17 Late Pithouse (AD 550-1000) and Pueblo (AD 1000-1300) sites in the Mimbres region. The findings presented demonstrate broader patterns for interpretation of community experiences that have not been as well described in previous case studies from individual site samples. This larger sample of all available adult burials reveals relatively good health, low rates of interpersonal conflict (10.5%), and sufficient diets. Results do not indicate difficulty for any subgroups to maintain equal access to resources, especially during the peak occupation of the Pueblo period when population growth and exploitation of large game may have impacted survival.

Although some individuals from all time periods showed indicators of interpersonal violence, Mimbres communities do not appear to have had endemic warfare seen in other regions of the Southwest. Stress was perhaps mitigated then by social mechanisms or forms of social control that promoted cooperation and resolved conflict. The limited use of strategic interpersonal violence may have been one of the ways that social order was maintained. Mortuary data support archaeological indicators of a fairly simple political structure but atypical burials from multiple sites suggest differential status or social significance in the community. These individuals may have served special roles and both skeletal and mortuary findings better inform interpretation of Mimbres societal structure.


American Southwest; Bioarchaeology; Forensic archaeology; Human osteology; Human remains (Archaeology); Mimbres; Mimbres culture; New Mexico – Mimbres Valley; Social control; Southwest; New; Trauma; Violence; Wounds and injuries


Archaeological Anthropology

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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