Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Committee Member

Debra Martin

Second Committee Member

Liam Frink

Third Committee Member

Barbara Roth

Fourth Committee Member

Janet Dufek

Number of Pages



Illness and injury are universal human experiences which are endowed with cultural meaning. Bioarchaeology has only recently begun to engage with the socioeconomic impacts of illness, injury, impairment, and healthcare provisioning in the past. This study examines how the Middle Archaic (6000 – 300 BC) and Early Woodland (1000 – 200 BC) hunter-gatherer community of Carrier Mills, Illinois was affected by and managed the socioeconomic burdens of poor health. The data presented in this study used bioarchaeological analyses to reveal patterns of poor health and healthcare provisioning within the Carrier Mills community. Bioarchaeology is ideally situated for such investigations since it combines skeletal indicators of poor health (skeletal evidence of injuries, nutritional stress, and disease) with archaeological, ethnographic, medical and forensic data to provide detailed understandings of poor health in prehistory.

This study collected data on the trauma, nutritional stress, and health at Carrier Mills using human skeletal remains from 441 adults and subadults. The data generated from these traditional paleopathological analyses was combined with the World Health Organization’s Global Buren of Disease and Bioarchaeology of Care methodologies to explore the effects of poor health on the Carrier Mills community. The Global Burden of Disease uses multiple factors and trade-offs in community adaptation at local and regional scales providing a means for explaining the demographic and social consequences of poor health in the past. The Bioarchaeology of Care is a theoretical and methodological framework for identifying and examining healthcare provisioning behaviors in the past using human skeletal remains. Using these three methodological frameworks, this study examines the consequences of poor health and how these consequences were dealt with in the prehistoric hunter-gatherer community of Carrier Mills, Illinois.

The results of this study demonstrate that Middle Archaic and Early Woodland life was challenging at Carrier Mills with several indicators of illness and injury. The Global Burden of Disease analysis revealed that the Carrier Mills community suffered a high socioeconomic burden of disease when compared with other communities. Moreover, despite the low frequency of violence, cranial injuries placed the second highest burden on the Carrier Mills community indicating that any violence in a community has a significant impact on overall community health. Despite this, the study revealed that people were surviving their illnesses, injuries and impairments and living into old age. The results from the Bioarchaeology of Care analysis suggest that healthcare provisioning allowed individuals to live despite their injuries, illnesses and impairments. These results indicate that the people of Carrier Mills were willing and able to provide healthcare and accommodate differences for impaired members of their community.

The results show that illness and injury were part of everyday life for the people of Carrier Mills. Evidence of cranial and post-cranial injury, nutritional stress, and chronic illness indicate that the people of Carrier Mills suffered from an increased socioeconomic burden of disease. These data support previous interpretations of the Middle Archaic and Early Woodland period were a challenging time for hunter-gatherer groups. However, the Bioarchaeology of Care data demonstrates that, despite these challenges, the community was able to assist sick and injured members and offset the burdens of poor health by accommodating differences of impaired members of the community. Thus, while life was challenging at Carrier Mills, people were still able to survive into old age due to the community’s willingness to provide for its sick and injured members.


Bioarchaeology of Care; Hunter-gatherers; Impairment; Midwest; Paleopathology


Archaeological Anthropology | Biological and Physical Anthropology | Pathology

File Format


File Size

8.2 MB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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