PhD Dissertations: Owen Beverly Beattie, 1981

An Analysis of Prehistoric Human Skeletal Material from the Gulf of Georgia Region of British Columbia.

This dissertation presents the analysis of a sample of 115 prehistoric human skeletons from a number of archaeological sites within the Gulf of Georgia region, providing a basis for inference on two aspects of local prehistory: (1) biological and cultural continuity over the last 5,000 years of regional prehistory through the use of various metric and non-metric skeletal observations; and (2) information on life style derived from the identification and study of skeletal pathologies present in the sample. The skeletons were segregated by time period into two groups, an Early (Locarno Beach and preceding phases), and a Late (Marpole and succeeding phases). The most attractive model for explaining a number of varying features that exist between the two groups is one of microevolution and shifting life styles rather than one of population discontinuities, although the results are not conclusive. Skeletal pathology for both samples indicates a rigorous life style with few indications of violence. Degenerative arthritic changes, collapsed vertebrae, cranial lesions, cribra orbitalia, and dental pathologies are found in varying frequencies in both samples. Comprehensive individual skeletal descriptions and metric and non-metric observations are included as appendices.

One of the appendices (D) presents the test of a relatively new approach for human sex determination on a sample of contemporary bone using bone composition rather than morphology. X-ray energy spectroscopy (XES) was applied to ascertain differences between the concentrations of selected elements in skull segments from a dissecting room sample of 89 individuals of known sex and age (49 males, 40 females). XES proved capable of generating such information rapidly without sample alteration. The major and trace elements detected were: P, Ca, Fe, Zn, Rb, Sr, As, and Pb. Sex differences observed include greater Ca and P concentrations in females, significantly more Pb in males, and detectable decreases in Ca and P concentrations with increasing age. It is argued that occupation and environmental (including cigarette smoking) Pb exposures are greater among males, therefore accounting for the higher bone Pb concentrations.