Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Committee Member

Debra L. Martin

Second Committee Member

Barbara Roth

Third Committee Member

Karen Harry

Fourth Committee Member

Janet Dufek

Number of Pages



Conflict, poor health, environmental instability, captive taking, and culture change are all potential contributors for the abandonment of the Middle Ohio River Valley at the end of the Protohistoric Period in eastern North America. This project investigated the relationship between these factors among the Fort Ancient community of Hardin Village. The data presented in this study use bioarchaeological analysis to reveal how environmental and cultural instability influenced communities to leave their homeland. Bioarchaeology was well suited for this investigation because it links the most direct evidence of violence and poor health and nutrition (skeletal injuries and evidence of disease) to archaeological reconstructions of past lifeways.

A comprehensive assessment of the health, nutritional status, activity levels, and traumatic injury at Hardin Village was completed using the data from a sample of 403 adult and subadult human burials. The findings of this study demonstrated nutritional deficiency and violent conflict that were not documented for this site in previous studies. This project found insufficient diets, violent encounters, and a relatively low age at death for the population. Results indicated that children, especially those of weaning age between one and five years old, and young adults had particular difficulty maintain necessary resources and avoiding violent conflict. Just over 10 percent (11.7%) of the population at Hardin Village lived beyond age 30.

The results showed that interpersonal violence was a fact of life for the people living at Hardin Village. Evidence of lethal and non-lethal trauma, including instances of injury recidivism, where individuals were victimized repeatedly, showed that warfare and raiding were endemic to the Fort Ancient region. There was some evidence of captive-taking at the earlier occupied 15th century portion of the site, however no evidence was found of excessive captive-taking from Hardin Village during the late Protohistoric occupation. This did not support ethnohistoric documents which suggest that captive taking by other indigenous groups was a primary motivator for the abandonment of the Middle Ohio River Valley. Instead, resource stress, poor nutrition, and endemic violence are stronger candidates for driving the abandonment of the Middle Ohio River Valley by Fort Ancient communities like Hardin Village.


Abandonment; Ancient health; Bioarchaeology; Fort Ancient; North America; Violence


Biological and Physical Anthropology

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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