Award Date

December 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Committee Member

Debra Martin

Second Committee Member

Barbara Roth

Third Committee Member

Liam Frink

Fourth Committee Member

Joel Lieberman

Number of Pages



Canyon de Chelly sits on the Northeastern border of the Kayenta region in Arizona. Because of the position in which they sit, those who lived there likely lived a unique experience when compared to the rest of the Kayenta cultural tradition, of which they are considered a part. By examining the skeletal remains of the canyon occupants, this study is able to reconstruct the demographic profile (age and sex), aspects of health (pathology, stature), analysis of trauma, and aspects of labor (robusticity and entheses) to create the first, modern, complete skeletal analysis of remains recovered from Canyon de Chelly. This collection of skeletal remains spans a very long occupation, approximately 1000 years from AD 300-1300 and can be broken up into two general time periods: Basketmaker and Pueblo. The specific research strategies laid out for this research attempted to answer big picture questions about what life was like at Canyon del Muerto and Canyon de Chelly during prehistory. These strategies focused on answering questions regarding how trauma played into the everyday experience and how living on the border of Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon may have conflated the amount of violence this population may have experienced. This violence data was then compared to data from the American Southwest as a whole to better contextualize this trauma against other populations to see how the individuals at Canyon del Muerto and Canyon de Chelly were faring in comparison.

Overall, the results from this study show that Canyon del Muerto and Canyon de Chelly did experience levels of violence on par or greater than both their Kayenta counterparts and many other regions in the American Southwest. It is likely that living on the border of regions that already had an established history of violence (Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon) led to an increase in the level of violence we see in the canyon. The pattern of violence fits that of cyclical raiding or short-term warfare rather than continuous warfare or cultural/ritual violence and resulted in middle and old aged males and females experiencing the majority of the trauma while young adults were largely absent from both the trauma and mortuary record. Those individuals with trauma also appeared to be less healthy overall than those individuals without trauma, as they had higher levels of porotic hyperostosis and the majority of them also had postcranial pathology and a slightly shorter stature. These results suggest that not only are the Kayenta more complicated and varied as a population than many researchers previously thought, but that violence within this region, at least on the periphery did exist and at a relatively high frequency. This is likely related to the fact that Canyon de Chelly existed on the borderland of other cultural traditions that may have led to increased interaction and possibly violence between neighbors.


Bioarchaeology; Borderlands; Prehistoric Populations; Violence


Biological and Physical Anthropology

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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