Chapter 7

Human Skeletal Remains

by Kristin A. Kuckelman and Debra L. Martin



The human skeletal remains found during Crow Canyon's excavations at Sand Canyon Pueblo provide important information about the lives and deaths of ancestral Pueblo people who lived during the thirteenth century in what is now the southwestern corner of Colorado. Sand Canyon Pueblo was a large village (Database Map 4001) that was constructed and occupied between the late A.D. 1240s or early 1250s and approximately A.D. 1280. During excavations, although there was no deliberate attempt to find human remains at the site, about 2,060 human bones and identifiable bone fragments were found.


The degree of articulation and preservation varied widely—some remains were nearly complete skeletons, some remains were clusters of disarticulated bones, and other remains were scattered. "Human Remains Occurrence" (HRO) numbers were assigned to the 32 clusters of human remains, including nearly complete skeletons, found at the site (Table 1). The individuals represented by these remains, which were either articulated or disarticulated but clustered, are listed in Table 2. Approximately 300 identifiable, scattered bones were also found at the site (Table 3); it is probable that a minimum of 12 additional individuals are represented by these bones (Table 4). Thus, a minimum total of 44 individuals is likely to be represented in the human remains that were found at Sand Canyon Pueblo.


For the Sand Canyon Pueblo assemblage, one HRO number designates the articulated or clustered remains of one individual, with the following exceptions: HRO 4 contains the commingled bones from two people (HROs 4a and 4b), and HROs 26 and 27 were two discrete clusters of bones that were probably from one person. In addition, the disarticulated human bones designated HRO 31 were not documented or analyzed, but rather were covered with sediment immediately after they were discovered; thus, it is not known whether the bones exposed were all from one individual.


Human remains were found in a variety of contexts at the site. The remains of nine of the individuals represented in the HROs appear to have been formally buried (Table 2). Formal interment was indicated by deliberate positioning or the inclusion of grave goods, or both. Twenty-three individuals did not show indications of formal interment. The remains of these people were found in "abandonment contexts," which are contexts that reflect the final cultural use of, or event that occurred in, a specific location, as evidenced by the absence of culturally deposited material above (i.e., stratigraphically later than) the remains. Nearly all the scattered remains found were also in abandonment contexts. The various contexts in which remains were found indicate that some individuals died during the occupation of the village and were formally interred; however, the majority of the individuals whose remains were found appeared to have died at or near the end of village occupation and were not formally interred.


The remains found at Sand Canyon Pueblo are inferred to be of ancestral Pueblo affinity because they were found on an ancestral Pueblo site, the backs of the skulls that were observable are artificially flattened, and the remains are directly associated with ancestral Pueblo structures and artifacts. The nine individuals whose remains were formally buried at Sand Canyon are likely to have been residents of the village. However, because one or more violent events occurred at or near the end of the occupation of Sand Canyon Pueblo and numerous individuals represented in this assemblage died as a result of violence, it is possible that some remains found in abandonment contexts were not those of residents but were from individuals who attacked the village. For this reason, the human remains from this site will generally be referred to in this chapter as an assemblage rather than as the remains of residents of the village.


Most of the excavation at Sand Canyon Pueblo was judgmentally based. Groups of adjacent structures—including many rooms, kivas, and kiva corner rooms—and some nonstructural areas in six architectural blocks (Blocks 100, 200, 300, 500, 1000, and 1200) were intensively excavated (Database Map 4001). HROs 1 through 22 and HRO 32 were found during these intensive excavations. Numerous judgmentally selected structures, extramural surfaces, and middens were tested or partly excavated, including numerous kivas in selected architectural blocks and various structures within complexes that appeared to contain public architecture (Blocks 800 and 1500). HROs 23–31 were found within the excavated portions of tested structures. Some random sampling was also conducted at the site. Thirty excavation pits, each measuring 2 x 2 m, were dug as part of a stratified random sample of the nonarchitectural areas of the site (Database Map 4002). Four teeth, but no bones, were the only human remains found in these randomly selected units. Five percent of the site was excavated, which yielded the collection of remains under study. It is not possible to determine how representative this subsample is of the entire population of human remains that were left at the site.


In the following sections, selected field data and bone-analysis results are presented, and various aspects of the human remains assemblage are discussed. For some topics, only HROs will be considered; for others, the entire site assemblage will be discussed. For still others, remains that were buried during the occupation of the village (formal burials) will be evaluated separately from remains that were in abandonment contexts and lacked evidence of formal interment. Topics of discussion include the following: methods; bone condition; age, sex, and demography; mortuary patterns; skeletal indicators of health; osteoarthritis and stress markers; cultural modifications; evidence of relatedness; and conclusions. Because the sample size is somewhat small and probably not representative of the population, the potential for interpretation and inference is relatively constrained.



A wide range of excavation, documentation, and analytic methods were used during the exposure, collection, and analysis of the human remains from Sand Canyon Pueblo. One reason for this variation is that the field project was conducted over a span of 10 years (1984–1993), during which time Crow Canyon's field methodology was developed and refined and procedures for the documentation of human remains became more structured. Also, through the numerous years of the project, several analysts were engaged to examine different portions of the assemblage, and some portions were analyzed by multiple analysts at different times (Table 5). In addition, some remains from this site were collected and analyzed in the laboratory, and some were analyzed in the field (in situ).


The collected remains were carefully cleaned of adherent materials in the laboratory; bones were dry brushed except when washing with water was necessary for more-detailed examination. Subsequent to the development of federal regulations for implementing the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act in 1992 (see Archaeological Ethics and Law on this Web site), all HROs and all scattered remains that were recognized as human at the time of excavation were analyzed in the field and were left in situ as much as possible. At the time of this writing, the collected human remains and associated funerary artifacts await repatriation at the Anasazi Heritage Center in Dolores, Colorado.


In order to minimize potential inconsistencies between analysts, selected scattered remains and all collected HROs (HROs 1–22) were reanalyzed in 1997 by Debra L. Martin; the collected dentition was reanalyzed by Alan H. Goodman. This reanalysis was performed in accordance with the procedures outlined in Standards for Data Collection from Human Skeletal Remains, or SOD (Buikstra and Ubelaker 1994*1). Skeletal elements were inventoried, measured, and examined for evidence of pathologies and trauma; condition, cranial deformation, age, and sex were assessed; dentition was analyzed; stature was estimated; and nonmetric traits were assessed. The results used in this chapter are primarily from Martin's reanalysis of the collected HROs, from Katzenberg's (1992*1) analysis of the collected scattered remains, and from Bradley's (1993*3) in-field analyses.


Numerous additional studies and analyses have been conducted on the human remains from this site (Bradley 1998*1, 1999*1, 2002*1; Coleman 1994*1; Katzenberg 1995*1, 1995*2; Katzenberg and Walker 1992*1; Kuckelman 2001*1, 2002*1; Kuckelman et al. 2002*2; Malville 1993*1, 1997*1). In order to study nutritional stress, bone-chemistry data were collected for selected skeletal remains (Katzenberg 1995*1) and radiographic (X-ray) analysis was used on selected long bones to determine whether Harris lines were present (Kice 1990*1, 1991*1). Lastly, during Martin's reanalysis of the Sand Canyon remains, casts of possible cut marks were created; these are slated to be analyzed by Ventura R. Perez.



In this section, bone-analysis data, as well as the associated contextual field data, are presented and discussed. Basic descriptive information on each HRO can be found under the respective study unit and feature headings in The Sand Canyon Pueblo Database. Additional information about, and discussion of, human remains can be found in Chapter 4. Finally, more-detailed field, analytic, and photographic documentation of human remains from this site is permanently archived at the Anasazi Heritage Center, Dolores, Colorado.


Basic mortuary data for the 32 HROs found at Sand Canyon Pueblo are provided in Table 1. Most formally buried remains were either flexed or semiflexed, whereas the remains found in abandonment contexts were sprawled or positioned more haphazardly. Comparing the formal burials with the remains in abandonment contexts provides an important perspective for the analysis of circumstances surrounding death.



To estimate the minimum number of people represented by the entire human remains assemblage from Sand Canyon Pueblo, we added the minimum number of individuals represented in the articulated or clustered remains (HROs) to the fewest number of individuals that appeared to be represented by scattered remains. We estimated the latter by tallying, by architectural block, the number of individuals of different age classes who appeared to be represented by the scattered remains and who did not appear to belong to any documented HROs (Table 4). This tally is conservative; we took special care to avoid duplicate counting of individuals. Teeth and phalanges were excluded from these calculations because they are not definitive evidence of death. Thirty-two individuals are represented by the remains that were either articulated or disarticulated but clustered (Table 2), and a minimum of 12 additional people are represented in the scattered remains (Table 4), for a minimum total of 44 individuals in the assemblage. Unless otherwise stated, only the remains that were articulated or disarticulated but clustered will be included in the discussions throughout the remainder of this chapter.


The evidence indicates that the remains of only nine of the individuals represented in the Sand Canyon Pueblo assemblage were formally buried—that is, buried during the occupation of the village (Table 2). The remains of the other 23 individuals, at least seven of which exhibited perimortem evidence of violence, were left in abandonment contexts at or near the end of the occupation. The number of formal burials found undoubtedly represents many fewer deaths than actually occurred during the approximately 30-year occupation of Sand Canyon Pueblo. In her study of mortuary patterns in the northern Southwest, Schlanger (1992*1:15) suggests an annual death rate of four to six individuals per 100. The population of Sand Canyon Pueblo has been estimated at between 225 and 500 people (Lipe and Varien 1999*2:334; Varien 1999*1:149); the following data suggest that, at its peak, the actual population was nearer the upper end of this range. There are an estimated 90 kivas at the site, which, if each kiva represents five to seven people, indicates a potential momentary population of between 450 and 630 individuals. Because the occupation span of the village was a comparatively brief 30 years, relatively few kivas would have been abandoned for significant lengths of time during the occupation of the village. Therefore, if during the most populous 15 years of occupation (perhaps A.D. 1260–1275) the population averaged as few as 400 people per year and during the other 15 to 20 years of occupation the population averaged even 100 people per year, then an estimated total of 300 to 480 individuals would have died during the occupation. Most of these remains would, presumably, have been formally buried. Although 5 percent of the site was excavated by Crow Canyon, fewer than the expected 5 percent of 300 to 480 (or 15 to 24) formal burials were found. This low frequency of discovery might have resulted from the relatively light sampling of midden areas; however, ancestral Pueblo sites generally contain fewer than the expected number of burials (Akins 1986*1:12–15; Morris 1924*1:224–225, 1939*1:33, 38–39; Schlanger 1992*1:16).

Age-at-Death and Sex Distributions


Table 2 presents the ages at death and sexes of the 32 individuals represented in the HROs from Sand Canyon Pueblo. For purposes of comparison with other studies of human remains, we use the Sand Canyon assemblage of HROs as a whole. When potentially informative, however, we also consider separately the characteristics of the remains that were formally buried from those that were left in abandonment contexts.

Distributions of All Human Remains Occurrences


In the Sand Canyon assemblage of 32 clusters of remains, 66 percent are subadults, or individuals 20 years of age or younger (Table 6). In selected larger assemblages of human remains from other sites in the Southwest, the percentage of subadults ranges from a low of 30 percent to a high of 67 percent; the Sand Canyon sample is thus at the high end of this range. In those same larger assemblages, the percentage of subadults who were younger than five years old varies even more widely, ranging from 12 percent to 75 percent. At 43 percent, the Sand Canyon sample falls well within the typical range. At 31 percent, the percentage of adolescents (individuals aged 12 to 20 years) in the Sand Canyon assemblage of clustered remains is higher than in assemblages from other sites (Table 7).


In general, the age and sex distributions of the adult remains from the site also appear to be within the ranges typical of prehistoric and protohistoric Pueblo populations. Of the 28 individuals from Sand Canyon Pueblo for whom an age range could be determined (Table 2), only one (HRO 23) was above the age of 50. In other Southwest assemblages, the percentage of individuals in this age group ranges from a high of 18 percent to a low of 1 percent (Martin et al. 1991*1:215). At 4 percent, this percentage of older adults in the Sand Canyon assemblage is thus within the range typical for Southwest assemblages. Among adults who could be sexed, the percentage of adult males represented is lower in the Sand Canyon assemblage of HROs than in other selected assemblages from the Southwest (Table 8). With the exception of the percentage of adult males, then, the age and sex distributions of individuals represented in the HRO assemblage from Sand Canyon Pueblo are within the ranges of distribution found in other assemblages in the Southwest.

Distributions of Formally Buried Remains


Among formally buried remains only, eight of nine (89 percent) were subadults (Table 9). This is higher than the percentage of subadults in assemblages from other sites (Table 6). Conversely, no formally buried adult male remains were found at Sand Canyon Pueblo (Table 8 and Table 9), even though it is nearly certain that many adult males died during the decades when the village was occupied (see paragraph 15).

Distributions of Remains Found in Abandonment Contexts


Among the remains of the 23 individuals found in abandonment contexts, the percentage of subadults (57 percent) is well within the range found in other selected assemblages in the Southwest (Table 6). The percentage of adolescents in the Sand Canyon assemblage of HROs, at 39 percent, is somewhat higher than in other selected assemblages in the Southwest (Table 7). Also, the proportion of adult male remains found in abandonment contexts at Sand Canyon is lower than that of adult males at other sites (Table 8).

Summary of Distributions


In sum, findings regarding age-at-death and sex distributions as compared with other, larger assemblages from the Southwest are as follows: (1) in both the overall assemblage of HROs and in the abandonment-context subassemblage, the proportion of adolescents appears to be high; (2) in the formal-burial subassemblage, the proportion of subadults is high and that of adult males is low; and (3) in the abandonment-context subassemblage, adult males are moderately underrepresented. The overrepresentation of subadults and the underrepresentation of adult males in the formal-burial subassemblage are probably complementary aspects of one pattern that is related to mortuary practices (see paragraph 26 and paragraph 30). The proportions of adolescents and adult males represented in abandonment contexts at Sand Canyon Pueblo may reflect important aspects of the abandonment events at this village, such as the demography of those present during an attack on the village, or perhaps those who perished in an attack as opposed to those who survived.

Mortuary Patterns


As previously stated, articulated or clustered human remains (HROs) were found in two different types of mortuary contexts at Sand Canyon Pueblo. The remains of nine of the individuals found at the site appear to have been formally buried during the occupation of the village, and the remains of 23 others were found in abandonment contexts with no firm evidence of having been formally buried (Table 2). The inferred times of death are listed in Table 10.


The burial types of HROs 1 and 6 are not clear. The disarticulated infant remains (HRO 1) were found in an area just south of Kiva 102 that had been disturbed by pothunting (Database Map 4033). The location of these remains in a midden suggests that the body might have been formally buried. However, the presence, in the same provenience, of the manubrium from HRO 4a raises doubt that HRO 1 was formally interred during the occupation of the village, because other parts of HRO 4a were very clearly in abandonment contexts in the structures to the north. Thus, because HRO 1 was contextually associated with the manubrium from HRO 4a, HRO 1 is, for the purposes of this analysis, categorized as having been left in an abandonment context.


The circumstances of deposition of HRO 6 are also unclear; these remains consist mostly of the bones of the lower right arm and hand of an older teen (possibly female) that were found in the fill just below the modern ground surface in the southwest corner of a courtyard (Database Map 4120). If not for the presence of multiple complete vessels and tools in the immediate vicinity of these remains, HRO 6 would have appeared to be in an abandonment context. However, the presence of the vessels (Table 1) raises the possibility that these remains were formally interred. Therefore, HRO 6 is categorized as being formally interred.

Mortuary Patterns of Formally Buried Remains


The remains of eight of the nine formally buried individuals were found within structures. Eight were subadults (Table 9), six of whom (HROs 8, 9, 15, 16, 17, and 18) had been interred in Room 1017, a kiva corner room (Database Map 4121, Database Map 4155, and Database Map 4156). The remains of a seventh subadult (HRO 25) were found in structural debris near the floor of Room 813, a peripheral room of Great Kiva 800 (Database Map 4281 and Database Map 4294). The eighth formally buried subadult (HRO 6) was described in the preceding paragraph (Database Map 4087 and Database Map 4120). The one formal burial of an adult, a female (HRO 5), was found in Midden 1214, above the dividing wall between Rooms 1204 and 1212 (Database Map 4159 and Database Map 4179). Additional descriptive information for each HRO is available in The Sand Canyon Pueblo Database. (To access this information, first select the study unit type [e.g., "Kivas"], and then choose the specific study unit by number [e.g., "Structure 108"]. Click on "Features," and select the feature that corresponds to the human remains occurrence of interest [e.g., "HRO 4, Feature 30"].)


At Pueblo III (A.D. 1150–1300) sites in the Mesa Verde region, formal burials are typically found on floors, in subfloor pits, in the fills of rooms, and in middens. At Sand Canyon Pueblo, the placement, in rooms, of seven of the nine (78 percent) formally buried subadults suggests that abandoned rooms were preferred interment sites for subadults; however, because middens were sampled relatively lightly, it is not clear if this is a strong pattern. The interment style of the six burials in Room 1017 (a kiva corner room) is similar to that of burials in structures at other sites that were used repeatedly for burial purposes. Burial rooms have been discovered at large pueblos such as Pueblo Bonito (Akins 1986*1, 2003*1; Judd 1954*1:28, 191,192, 254, 325–342; Pepper 1909*1, 1920*1:163, 376) and Aztec Ruin (Morris 1924*1:222), at smaller sites in the La Plata valley (Morris 1939*1:115), at Mesa Verde (Fewkes 1909*1:24; Nordenskiöld 1979*1:46–47), and at Site 5MT3 in the Yellow Jacket community (Karhu 2000*1). A kiva was used for a mass interment at Woods Canyon Pueblo (Bradley 2002*2). At Sand Canyon Pueblo, the remains of four individuals were placed, in the following order, on the floor of Room 1017—HROs 17, 16, 18, and 15. HROs 8 and 9 were later placed in secondary refuse above the floor. Sandstone slabs partly covered HROs 16 and 17. Funerary objects accompanied the remains of three of these subadults—a complete Pueblo III White Painted mug was found with HRO 8, a nearly complete McElmo Black-on-white bowl accompanied HRO 15, and a complete Pueblo III White Painted mug was found with HRO 17 (Table 1).


Room 1017 is adjacent to Kiva 1004 and is called a kiva corner room. This type of room is typically inferred to have been used for storage, and Room 1017 might have been used for storage before it was used as a burial room. Rooms at other sites that have been used repeatedly for burials have been interpreted as ordinary storage or residential structures that had been abandoned (Akins 2003*1; Judd 1954*1:28, 325–327; Karhu 2000*1:25; Morris 1924*1:222, 1939*1:115; Nordenskiöld 1979*1:46; Pepper 1909*1:247–248, 1920*1:163), However, it is conceivable that Room 1017 was constructed to be used for burials, because the access and location of this structure differ from those of most other kiva corner rooms observed at this site (Database Map 4121). Unlike other corner rooms, there is no pass-through linking Room 1017 with the adjacent kiva, Kiva 1004 (see the online field manual for the definition of a pass-through). The deposition of secondary refuse after the interments of HROs 15–18 suggests that the kiva suite was probably still occupied when interments occurred. Also, this is the only kiva corner room observed at the site that is adjacent to another corner room (Room 1018). In addition, rather than being located northwest, northeast, southwest, or southeast of the kiva, which are typical locations for kiva corner rooms at this site, this room is located west of the adjacent kiva. These unusual characteristics might indicate that use of this structure as a burial room was foreseen when the room was constructed.


Funerary objects may have been associated with four of the nine formal burials (Table 1). Two of these individuals were young children (aged 1.5 to 2.5 years and 1+ year), and two were adolescents (aged 15 years and 15 to 20 years). No grave goods were associated with the remains of a fetus (HRO 9), an infant aged 0 to 6 months (HRO 18), an infant aged 3 to 9 months (HRO 25), a child aged 2 to 6 years (HRO 16), and an adult female (HRO 5). Most often, grave goods were black-on-white mugs and bowls. In addition, a complete stone pendant was found near the sternum of a different infant who was about one year old (HRO 7); these remains were found in an abandonment context and it is therefore unlikely that this object was placed with the body. Instead, the pendant was probably suspended around the infant's neck at the time of death.


Although discovering burials was not a goal of the Sand Canyon Archaeological Project (see Chapter 2), fewer than the expected number of formal burials were found during Crow Canyon's excavations. Why weren't more burials discovered? Few of the excavated structures at the site contained refuse, suggesting that only a small number of structures were abandoned during the comparatively short occupation of the village. Perhaps for this reason, relatively few individuals were formally interred on structure floors and in structure fills. However, subfloor burials have been found at many ancestral Pueblo sites, and at other sites there is evidence that some of these rooms continued to be used after the remains were interred. At Sand Canyon Pueblo, the location of most of the floors and plaza surfaces on or near bedrock would have precluded subfloor burial.


Midden interments appear to have been less common during the Pueblo III period (A.D. 1150–1300) than in earlier time periods in the northern Southwest (Karhu 2000*1; Morris 1939*1:115; Schlanger 1992*1), and no formal burials were found in extramural middens at Sand Canyon. It is also conceivable that, because the occupation span of Sand Canyon Pueblo was short, because the village was built on a canyon rim, and because of the sloped topography, few middens achieved a depth great enough to inter a body to a depth sufficient to protect it from predators. Thus, some individuals, especially adults, might have been interred in the deeper sediments of the rolling uplands adjacent to the village. No formal cemeteries have been found for ancestral Pueblo people (Schlanger 1992*1:10). However, because many Pueblo III settlements were densely populated and few burials have been found, a considerable number of individuals might have been interred away from villages (Hill 1970*1:78; Judd 1954*1:340–341; Schlanger 1992*1:14). Although the sample of formal burials at Sand Canyon is small, the absence of adult males in this sample strengthens the possibility that the remains of these individuals were interred elsewhere.

Mortuary Circumstances of Remains Found in Abandonment Contexts


The 23 individuals represented in the remains found in abandonment contexts were in a variety of locations (Table 1), including kiva floors, kiva roof-collapse deposits, room floors, and in structural collapse within rooms. These remains did not appear to have been carefully placed and were not accompanied by mortuary offerings. Several of the skeletons were incomplete, some were disarticulated, and some exhibited direct evidence of violent death in the form of perimortem skull fractures (that is, fractures that show no evidence of healing and thus occurred around the time of death) (see paragraph 68). Because these remains were all found in the same type of context, because there is direct evidence of violent death on some of the remains, and because there is evidence that these remains were not formally interred, we infer that the remains in abandonment contexts probably represent individuals who died in one or more violent events that occurred at or near the end of the occupation of the village (Kuckelman 2007*1; see also Chapter 9, this volume).

Skeletal Indicators of Health


In this section, evidence of the health of the individuals whose remains were found at Sand Canyon Pueblo is presented and discussed. Many health conditions primarily affect soft tissue and therefore leave no traces on the skeleton of an individual. However, some conditions, especially chronic infectious diseases, do leave observable skeletal indications, which yield important clues to the health of the individuals in the sample being studied. This information leads to increased understanding of living conditions and the quality of life of thirteenth-century ancestral Pueblo people.


Under the subheadings below, the presence, prevalence, and severity of various health indicators are reviewed, including enamel hypoplasia, dental caries and abscesses, porotic hyperostosis, periostitis, other lesions, other possible pathology, and stature. Evidence of spina bifida, although not uncommon in assemblages from the ancient Southwest, was not observed in this assemblage. Some lower limb bones of a few individuals (HRO 11, 12, 13, and 14) were examined radiographically for the presence of Harris lines (Kice 1990*1, 1991*1); however, we do not consider these lines to be reliable indicators of developmental disturbance and so do not include the results of that study in this report.

Enamel Hypoplasia


Enamel hypoplasias are developmental defects in the thickness of tooth enamel in the form of pits, grooves, raised bands, or amorphous areas of enamel irregularity. Nearly all hypoplasias that have been documented in archaeological assemblages appear to be of a type that results from systemic stress (Martin et al. 1991*1:99–100) caused by various nutritional deficiencies and diseases, although some hypoplasias are hereditary or traumatic in origin. Enamel hypoplasia is considered by many researchers to be a reliable indicator of health stress that indicates not only the quantity and intensity of growth-disruption episodes, but also the age, from prenatal to seven years of age, at which the stressful event occurred.


The teeth of numerous individuals in the assemblage of human remains from Sand Canyon Pueblo exhibited hypoplastic defects (Table 11). Hypoplasia in particular subsets of this assemblage has been studied previously by Malville (1993*1, 1997*1) and Bradley (1998*1). In the entire assemblage from this site, 16 individuals had one or more permanent teeth that were scorable for enamel hypoplasia. Defects were present on the teeth of 11 of these people (69 percent), all of whom had lesions on multiple teeth. Seven had experienced two or three growth-interrupting episodes, as evidenced by multiple grooves on at least one tooth. Canine teeth were most frequently affected by enamel hypoplasia—59 percent of the permanent canine teeth that are present were affected, and 64 percent of individuals who had at least one permanent canine exhibited hypoplasia.


The incidence of hypoplasia in the entire Sand Canyon assemblage indicates that individuals commonly experienced at least one growth-disruption episode and that more than half of the subsample that was assessable experienced multiple episodes before reaching seven years of age. At least two of the four adults for whom at least one tooth was assessed retained hypoplastic defects from their childhoods. One study (Bradley 1998*1:206) found that the incidence of hypoplasia among subadult remains from Sand Canyon Pueblo is similar to that in other Pueblo III (A.D. 1150–1300) assemblages from the Mesa Verde region. However, the rate of hypoplasia in the subadult assemblage from Grasshopper Pueblo is substantially lower (Hinkes 1983*1).

Dental Caries and Abscesses


Dentition in the Sand Canyon Pueblo assemblage was assessed for dental caries and abscesses. These diseases are important indicators of the overall health of the individuals whose remains were found at the site. One or more teeth from 22 individuals in the Sand Canyon assemblage were assessed for the presence of these two conditions (Table 11).


Dental caries is an infectious disease in which the dental tissues are demineralized, or destroyed, by bacterial fermentation on the tooth surface. The impact of caries on the health of the individual is not substantial unless the disease progresses to the stage in which the pulp cavity is exposed and infection develops; the infection can then spread to other parts of the body and become a serious health risk. Caries can develop in both deciduous and permanent dentition, but is most prevalent in the latter. The incidence of caries in precontact agricultural communities varies widely.


Carious lesions were present in both deciduous and permanent dentition found at Sand Canyon Pueblo. Of the nine individuals with deciduous dentition, only one (11 percent) had carious lesions; both of the lesions present were arrested. Of the 14 individuals with permanent teeth, the teeth of nine persons (64 percent) had one or more such lesions. However, none of the lesions was large and no pulp cavities had been invaded. It is unlikely, therefore, that the caries adversely affected the health of the individuals represented.


In contrast, abscesses caused by caries that affect the surrounding alveolar bone tissue were generally absent at the site. However, one individual (HRO 2) in the Sand Canyon assemblage suffered from an abscess in his maxilla, just above the left lateral incisor. A large perforation of unknown etiology is observable in the upper palate of this same individual (Figure 1), which could have been caused by localized cancer of the palate or a severe abscess. The remains of this individual also show evidence of perimortem fractures suggestive of violent death, inviting speculation that this man's health was compromised at the time of death.

Porotic Hyperostosis


Porotic hyperostosis (PH), the skeletal manifestation of iron-deficiency anemia, is caused by an expansion of the diploë, an increase in the thickness of the cranial vault, and a reduction or destruction of the outer table of the cranium. Numerous researchers have attempted to summarize the causes and interpretation of this disease in Southwestern populations (Akins 1986*1:42; El-Najjar et al. 1975*1, 1976*1; Hinkes 1983*1:47; Martin et al. 1991*1:151; Palkovich 1980*1:41–47; Stodder 1987*1; Walker 1985*1; White 1992*1:95). There is general agreement that PH is the result of a complex set of variables involving constitutional factors, diet, and infectious disease (Mensforth et al. 1978*1). These factors often act synergistically to compromise and lower the hematocrit levels of iron. For the Southwest, the frequencies of PH and the underlying causes are best summarized by Walker (1985*1:153):

The remarkable prevalence of osseous lesions indicative of anemia among prehistoric Southwest Indians apparently resulted from the interaction of a complex set of biological and cultural variables relating to nutrition and infectious disease. Lack of iron in the diet, prolonged breast feeding, diarrheal and helminth infections, and living conditions conducive to the spread of disease all appear to have contributed to the prevalence of porotic hyperostosis.


In the Sand Canyon Pueblo assemblage, PH was present on five of the 22 skulls (23 percent) in all age groups that were assessable for the condition (Table 11). The remains of all five of these individuals were found in abandonment contexts. Two cases were moderate in intensity, three were slight, and all were remodeled (not active at the time of death). Of the 18 assessable subadults, four (22 percent) exhibited the condition; only one of those afflicted was younger than 10 years of age. Of the four assessable adults, one (25 percent) was afflicted; however, this sample is so small that this frequency might not be representative of the total adult population of the village.


Because no remains from Sand Canyon Pueblo exhibit active PH, the conditions and diseases that cause the condition do not appear to have been a significant factor in the health of any of the individuals in the Sand Canyon assemblage. No evidence of PH was found on any of the six formally buried individuals who were assessable for the condition, five of whom were younger than six years old. Therefore, the factors that cause the condition apparently were not part of a spectrum of overall poor health of those who died during the occupation of the village. The five individuals on whose skulls PH was evident—HROs 2, 3, 19, 20, and 22—died at or near the end of village occupation; four of these, all except HRO 3, suffered skull fractures around the time of death (Table 12).


There is an intriguing spatial patterning of the remains of the five people exhibiting PH at this site. The remains of two of the individuals with this condition (HROs 2 and 3) were found in abandonment contexts on the floors of structures (Room 105 and Kiva 107) that were less than 2 m apart (Database Map 4021, Database Map 4037, and Database Map 4043). The remains of two other individuals with PH (HROs 19 and 22) were found together in an abandonment context on the floor of Kiva 1004 (Database Map 4121 and Database Map 4135); the remains of the fifth affected individual (HRO 20) was found in an abandonment context in collapsed roofing material in Room 1001, which is a surface room associated with Kiva 1004 (Database Map 4121 and Database Map 4125). Although the significance of this patterning is not certain, it does seem likely that this clustering of individuals with PH is not coincidental—that is, it is likely that the individuals within these clusters were related. For example, coresidential relatives are more likely to have suffered from the same health conditions that result in PH (that is, the same nutritional deficiency, infectious disease, or parasitism) than individuals who were not related or who lived in separate residences. One possibility is that, in the former cluster, HRO 2, a male (40 to 45 years old), and HRO 3, a female (18 to 20 years old), were father and daughter or uncle and niece. In the other cluster, HRO 19 (12 to 15 years old), HRO 20 (20 years old), and HRO 22 (8 years old) could have been siblings or coresidential cousins. Thus, although the presence of PH among individuals in a population should not, in and of itself, be interpreted as evidence of relatedness, the spatial patterning of the individuals that were so affected in this assemblage can be interpreted as possible evidence of relatedness and coresidence.


The overall frequency of PH in the Sand Canyon remains, both in the assemblage as a whole and in the subadult assemblage, is lower than in other assemblages from the Southwest. According to data compiled by Karhu (2000*1:Table 3.22) for Pueblo II/Pueblo III assemblages from the northern Southwest, the frequency of this condition ranges from 40 percent in La Plata valley assemblages to 83 percent in the assemblages from Yellow Jacket sites 5MT1 and 5MT3, as opposed to the 23 percent frequency in the Sand Canyon assemblage. The frequency among the subadults, in particular, in the Sand Canyon assemblage (22 percent) is much lower than that in the Yellow Jacket assemblages (Karhu 2000*1:Table 3.12), and in the La Plata, Black Mesa, Mesa Verde, and combined Chaco Canyon assemblages (Martin et al. 2001*1:Table 7.2). Only the subadult remains from Pueblo Bonito show a comparably low level of PH (Martin et al. 2001*1:Table 7.2). If these frequencies are not due to the vagaries of interobserver differences, or sample bias, size, or definition, then these results suggest that the individuals whose remains were found at Sand Canyon Pueblo, especially the infants and young children, were less afflicted by the conditions and diseases that result in PH than were most other ancient Pueblo groups.



Periostitis is inflammation of the fibrous membrane that covers the surfaces of bones; it occurs as a result of nonspecific, infectious disease. Periosteal reactions that involve multiple long bones, often bilaterally, generally result from systemic infectious diseases, whereas isolated reactions usually result from localized trauma (Martin et al. 1991*1:128). The great majority of infectious responses on bone are probably the result of common, transmissable bacterial infections such as staphylococcus and streptococcus.


In the Sand Canyon assemblage, the remains of 30 subadult and adult individuals were assessed for the presence of periosteal reactions (Table 11). Reactions ranging from slight to severe were found on the remains of six (20 percent) of the 30 individuals. The six affected individuals were all subadults, and all lesions were active at the time of death.


For a variety of reasons, periosteal reactions are often located on long bones (Martin et al. 1991*1:129). In the Sand Canyon assemblage, these reactions were found on the long bones of four of the six subadults having periostitis. Mild reactions, both remodeled and active, are present on the femora of a female 18 to 20 years old (HRO 3); because reactions were found on both femora, the reactions are likely to have resulted from systemic disease. Slight to moderate reactive bone was present on the right femur of an infant 1.5 to 2 years old (HRO 1). The remains of both HROs 1 and 3 were found in the excavated portion of Block 100, and it is thus possible that these two people were afflicted with the same infectious condition at the time of death. A severe reaction is present on the tibia of a late-term fetus (HRO 9), although it is possible that this was not a periosteal reaction at all, but was instead the result of osteomyelitis. Regardless, it is likely that the death of this fetus was associated with whatever malady caused this reaction on the tibia. A moderate reaction was also noted on the tibia of an infant approximately one year old (HRO 15). HROs 9 and 15 were formally buried in Room 1017. Although the stratigraphic position of the remains indicates that they were not interred at the same time, it is possible that the causes of death of these two individuals were related in some way. However, because HRO 9 is believed to have been fetal at the time of death, the health of the mother of the fetus would have been involved as well.


Periosteal reactions are also present on other types of bones in this assemblage. Reactive tissue was noted on both mandibles and on the right scapula of an adolescent 12 to 15 years old (HRO 19). The presence of reactions on multiple bones indicates that systemic disease was the causative agent. The mildly reactive bone on the frontal bone of a child approximately eight years old (HRO 22) could have resulted from trauma. However, the remains of HROs 19 and 22 were found on the floor of Kiva 1004, and these subadults might have been related (see paragraph 76), or at least coresidents, and thus possibly suffering from the same systemic illness when they died.


Periosteal reactions are also present in the human remains assemblages from other sites in the Southwest. The assemblage from Chaco Canyon contains only one possible case (Akins 1986*1:61). Fifteen selected Southwestern assemblages dating from A.D. 800 to 1700 contain frequencies of periosteal reactions ranging from 0 to 11 percent, with the exception of an anomalously high frequency of 42 to 57 percent in the Black Mesa assemblages (Martin et al. 1991*1:Table 6-10). These frequencies include reactions located on long bones only. The frequency of reaction on the long bones in the Sand Canyon assemblage is 17 percent. Therefore, with the exception of the Black Mesa assemblage, the Sand Canyon assemblage appears to have a slightly greater frequency of periosteal reactions than other Southwest assemblages, possibly indicating that the Sand Canyon individuals suffered from a slightly higher incidence of systemic infectious diseases than other ancient populations in the Southwest.

Other Lesions


Other lesions present in the Sand Canyon assemblage include osteophytes, myostitis ossificans, and button osteoma (Table 11). Osteophytes are small, abnormal bony protuberances that are usually located where ligaments connect to bone (Buikstra and Ubelaker 1994*1:181). Slight osteophytosis was present on a thoracic vertebra of an adult male (HRO 24), and a moderate level of this condition was found on the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae of an adult female (HRO 14). The remains of both individuals were found in abandonment contexts in structures that are in proximity to each other—Kiva 501 and Room 813 (Database Map 4001, Database Map 4089, and Database Map 4294). Myostitis ossificans is an ossification, or bone spur, within muscle tissue that is frequently the result of trauma. Such a bone spur was present on the shaft of the right humerus of an adolescent (HRO 19). Lastly, a small button osteoma was present on the frontal bone of an adult male (HRO 2). These conditions probably did not affect the overall health of these individuals.

Other Possible Pathology


The following indications of additional possible pathology were noted on the remains of an adolescent female (HRO 3) found in an abandonment context on the floor of Kiva 107: periosteal reactions on both femora (mentioned in the previous section); thin, curved, porous bones; hundreds of wormian bones along the lambdoidal suture; an extreme amount of cranial deformation; and an unusually pointed chin. The presence of periosteal reactions on both femora indicates that this individual suffered from systemic, infectious disease. The thin, curved, and porous bones are reminiscent of poliomyelitis. Or, she might have suffered from a mild variant of a congenital disorder called "osteogenesis imperfecta"; some characteristics of this condition—also called "fragile bone" syndrome—include porous bones, wormian bones along the lambdoidal suture, and a pointed chin. The extreme degree of cranial deformation could have resulted from ordinary cradleboarding if she suffered from the "soft bones" aspect of this type of disorder. Although this individual did not suffer from the bone fractures characteristic of classic osteogenesis imperfecta, the co-occurrence of the other pathology and characteristics is nevertheless suggestive of the condition or a variant thereof. Other aspects of the disorder that this individual might have exhibited but that would not be expressed skeletally are blue sclerae, deafness, and thin, translucent skin.



Stature is an important indicator of overall health. Because nutrient deficiency affects development and growth, below-average stature is an indicator of nutritional stress and disease and thus of adaptation to an environment. In the Sand Canyon assemblage of adult and late-subadult remains, the heights of five individuals were assessable—one adult male (HRO 2), one adult female (HRO 30), one late teen who was female (HRO 3), one teen who was possibly female (HRO 6), and an adult who was probably female (HRO 29). Using Genovés's (1967*1) formulae, stature was calculated on the basis of femur length for the individuals with complete femora (HROs 2, 3, and 6) and on tibia length for those for whom femur length was not available (HROs 29 and 30) (Table 13). The statures of these few individuals in the Sand Canyon population compare favorably to the average statures in other Southwestern populations, which range from 159 to 169 cm for adult males and from 149 to 162 cm for adult females (Karhu 2000*1:Table 3.24; Martin et al. 1991*1:Table 4-9, 2001*1:Tables 4.12 and 7.2). At a height of 166 cm, the one assessable individual known to be male in the Sand Canyon assemblage was taller than the average height for men in numerous late prehistoric Southwestern assemblages (Table 14). The average height of the females and possible females who were assessable in the Sand Canyon assemblage is calculated to have been 156 cm, which is at the tall end of the average range for adult females in late prehistoric Southwestern assemblages.


It is a challenging and complex task to determine whether the heights of subadults were within the "average" range, were "below average," or were "above average." The primary difficulties are that, first, it is seldom possible to accurately pinpoint the age of the individual at death; rather, a range of possible ages is usually the best that can be achieved with the aging methods currently available. The age range for a particular child or adolescent is often three to six years in length (see Table 2). Second, because subadult remains cannot be reliably sexed, sexual dimorphism cannot be factored into calculations of height. Therefore, it is difficult to determine with any degree of accuracy whether a particular subadult was, for his or her age, of average, above-average, or below-average height.


However, there have been attempts to evaluate subadult growth. One method devised to compare subadult growth of young children between populations plots femur length by dental age. Martin et al. (2001*1:Figure 4.8) plotted these data for Black Mesa, Arikara, Dickson Mounds, La Plata valley, and Chaco Canyon assemblages. In that study, the individuals from Southwest populations (Black Mesa, La Plata, and Chaco Canyon) plotted consistently lower in femoral length by dental age than did the Arikara and the individuals from Dickson Mounds (Figure 2 ). In the Sand Canyon assemblage, the requisite dentition and at least one measurable femur were available for only two children (HROs 8 and 13) in the age range of interest. The dental age of HRO 8, whose femur length is 142 cm, is two years. The dental age of HRO 13 is five to six years, and the femur length of this child is 223 cm. Like the heights of the individuals in the other Southwest assemblages, the estimated heights of these two children from Sand Canyon are well below the heights of those in the Arikara assemblages, but are comparable to the heights of the children in the Black Mesa and La Plata groups (Figure 2). Hinkes (1983*1:Figure 11) used the same method to compare the heights of children in the Grasshopper Pueblo assemblage with the heights of those in the Indian Knoll and Arikara assemblages. The children in the Sand Canyon assemblage fall within the range of heights in this study as well. Using a different method of assessment, Bradley (1998*1:210–213) also concluded that the subadults in the Sand Canyon assemblage tended to be of average height and that some might have been taller than average. As a measure of overall health, nutrition, and disease, then, the heights of the assessable individuals in the Sand Canyon assemblage suggest that these people enjoyed adequate nutrition and that no serious diseases adversely affected their growth and development.

Osteoarthritis and Occupational-Stress Markers


Osteoarthritis is defined as inflammation of joints resulting from infectious, metabolic, or constitutional causes that is marked by degeneration of the cartilage and bone of joints. In the Sand Canyon assemblage, evidence of arthritis was present (Table 12) on the remains of the five individuals known to have been at least 30 years of age (HROs 2, 14, 23, 24, and 26/27) (Table 2). One male (HRO 2) suffered from a moderate level of arthritis in both elbows. One adult female (HRO 14) experienced a slightly higher level of arthritis in her left shoulder and also had slight to moderate degenerative joint disease in most other joints. The third individual, a female (HRO 23), suffered from a minor amount of arthritis in her left elbow; the fourth, an adult male (HRO 24), had osteophytes on a thoracic vertebra; and the fifth, a probable female (HRO 26/27), exhibited slight arthritis on a cervical vertebra (centrum). Thus, in the Sand Canyon Pueblo assemblage, arthritis appears to have been related to age and was most commonly present in the elbow and spine. The joints most severely affected in the UMUILAP (Ute Mountain Ute Irrigated Lands Archaeological Project) assemblage (Lambert 1999*1:138, Table 6.10) were, in decreasing order of frequency, the neck, lower back, shoulder, and wrist. Although the sample from Sand Canyon is small, these data could indicate some differences in the tasks that were engaged in most often by the individuals represented in these two assemblages.


Biomechanical stress associated with frequent or habitual activities can leave indicators on the skeleton. In the Sand Canyon assemblage, the remains of several individuals exhibited evidence of specific habitual activities.


Several occupational-stress markers were found on the remains of an adult male (HRO 2). This individual was robust, and the circumference of his right clavicle is unusually large (his left clavicle was not found). His arm bones are oddly angled, flared, and exhibit odd bone projections that are not exactly enthesiopathies. His right radius is thicker and more flared than his left, and the distal end of his right ulna is very flared. As mentioned above, this individual also suffered from osteoarthritis in both elbows. His right hand was slightly larger than his left and the distal phalanx of his right thumb is concave. His ribs are gnarled and appear rather osteoporotic. The remains of his lower body also indicate occupational stress: (1) the leg bones have porosity around the articular surfaces; (2) the linea asperae are large, squared-off, and pronounced; (3) the acetabulums are large, displaced, and porous; and (4) the ischial tuberosities are craggy.


These skeletal markers suggest a suite of motions in which this individual frequently engaged and might indicate that he was a craftsman. The large size of his clavicle indicates that the muscles of his shoulders and upper chest saw much heavy use and that this individual spent a good deal of time pushing something forward. The increased size of the bones in his right arm and hand indicate that he was right-handed. The stress markers in his arms—especially his right arm and hand—along with the curvature of the distal phalanx of his right thumb, suggests that he frequently engaged in some activity that involved pushing with the tip of this thumb. The presence of pronounced linea asperae on his femora reflect an unusual level of use of his adductor muscles, which could have resulted from an abundance of sprinting, or more likely, in view of the characteristics of his upper body, activity in which he braced an object in his lap or between his knees. Furthermore, the presence of craggy ischial tuberosities, the displacement of the acetabulums, and an absence of squatting facets suggests that this individual spent a great deal of time sitting with his legs extended in front of him.


Possible additional evidence that this individual was a craftsman includes the types of floor features and artifacts in structures and middens adjacent to Room 105, the structure where his remains were found. Numerous grooves and circular or oval depressions had been abraded into the bedrock surface of Room 105 (Database Map 4036), probably during either the production or maintenance of tools or other items. Abraded grooves were found in only a few locations elsewhere on the site (Database Map 4313 and Database Map 4112). Within Block 100, a large stone slab with numerous abraded, shallow grooves in its surface was found in the collapsed roof debris of Kiva 107 (Database Photo 2681) but was not collected. In addition, a stylized image of a flute player resembling Kokopelli had been pecked and abraded into the bedrock surface beneath the adobe floor of Kiva 108 (Database Photo 3622 and Database Map 4050), one of the kivas spatially associated with the room in which this individual's remains were found; it is possible that HRO 2 was a flute craftsman.


Other artifacts that might have been produced by this individual, or that might have been used in the production of other items, were found on the structure floors (Kivas 102 and 108, and Room 104) and in the middens (Middens 103 and 109) in the excavated area of Block 100 (Database Map 4021). Notable among these assemblages are the many ground-stone tools on the floor of Room 104 (Database Map 4034), the room adjacent to the room in which HRO 2 was found. It is thus possible that this individual was a craftsman who spent a great deal of time fashioning labor-intensive items, such as ground-stone tools, ornaments, beads, or projectile points, or working with perishable materials, such as wood or hide.


Another possible indicator of occupational stress is unusual dental wear. Pronounced wear on the anterior molars was common in the dentition of the late adolescents in the Sand Canyon assemblage. One activity that could have produced this type of wear is the processing of leather. The remains of one female 17 to 26 years of age (HRO 4b) exhibited unusual dental wear of a different type—severe attrition of her incisors. It is not clear what type of activity or craft would have produced this wear pattern.


Also worthy of note is the absence of occupational-stress markers on the remains of a female 18 to 20 years old (HRO 3); her remains were found near the remains of the male described in paragraph 59. The bones of this individual, which were very long, thin, curved, and porous, had remarkably little muscle-attachment development for her age. She thus appears to have performed less physical labor than most ancestral Pueblo people, possibly as a result of frail health.


Thus, a variety of habitual activities left skeletal evidence in the Sand Canyon assemblage. One male may have been a craftsman, some adolescents performed a specialized task (perhaps leatherworking) with their teeth, and one female appears to have used her incisors for some unknown, specific task.

Cultural Modifications


In this section, human modifications to bones will be discussed, including burning, fractures, abrasions, and cut marks. In the Sand Canyon Pueblo assemblage, these modifications are important indicators of behaviors and actions associated with the deaths of some villagers.



The remains of two individuals in the Sand Canyon assemblage had been altered by exposure to fire (Table 12), although the bones do not exhibit characteristics of remains that have been cremated (Buikstra and Ubelaker 1994*1:Figure 66). The remains of one adult (HRO 5) who was possibly female had been extensively burned. All bones of this individual were broken and fragmentary. Although a few (10 percent) blackened fragments had been burned at temperatures less than 200 degrees, most bones (90 percent) were burned at 800 degrees or hotter. These remains were found in secondary refuse (Midden 1214) above a dividing wall between two surface rooms (Database Map 4179 and Database Map 4159). Because secondary refuse was apparently present above the body as well, we infer that the remains of this individual were intentionally interred during the occupation of the village (that is, as a formal burial). However, the circumstances under which the remains became burned are not clear. Thus, it is possible that there was no specific intent to burn this body, and the remains became incinerated during an episode of burning of the surrounding midden debris.


The second individual whose remains were exposed to fire was a female (HRO 14) whose remains had been partly burned by low heat. Portions of the cranium, the left radius, right radius, right patella, the proximal right tibia, and some ribs were burned dark brown or black. The remains were found within the collapsed burned roofing material of Kiva 501 (Database Map 4089 and Database Map 4087), and the burned roofing material beneath the remains appears to have been the source of the burning on the bones. Thus, although the burning of the remains is clearly associated with the burning of the kiva roof, the circumstances of death and deposition of the remains are not known. However, because there was no culturally deposited material above the remains and the body was not placed in a typical burial position, the remains are categorized as being in an abandonment context.

Fractures, Abrasions, and Cut Marks


Numerous bones in the Sand Canyon assemblage had been fractured (Table 12). Some fractures were antemortem (show evidence of healing), others were perimortem (show no evidence of healing and therefore occurred around the time of death), and still others were postmortem (occurred after death). The postmortem damage is inferred to have occurred naturally, either as a result of structural collapse, carnivore activity, or the weight of overburden above the remains. The postmortem fractures will not be discussed further in this chapter.


Seven fractures in this assemblage were antemortem, and two additional fractures were possibly antemortem. All nine of these were skull fractures, and all were on the remains of four individuals found in abandonment contexts (HROs 2, 3, 11, and 20). It is possible that some or all of these fractures were accidental; however, it is likely that the antemortem skull fractures were intentionally inflicted, because at least seven individuals in this village (HROs 2, 4a, 11, 19, 20, 22, and an additional adult represented by isolated bone PD 132, FS 36) clearly suffered intentionally inflicted skull fractures around the time of death (Table 12). The remains of all of these individuals, along with the remains of a male (HRO 24) who suffered multiple perimortem fractures of his leg bones, were found in abandonment contexts, and thus these individuals probably died at or near the end of the occupation of the village. Perimortem abrasions or cut marks on various bones of a minimum of four people (HROs 19, 20, 22, and the individual or individuals represented by PD 132, FS 36, and PD 155, FS 5; see Table 12) are evidence of either wounds inflicted around the time of death, or intentional damage that was done to the remains shortly after death. The considerable evidence of violent actions in the Sand Canyon Pueblo human remains assemblage indicates not only a history of violence in the region from the middle to late A.D. 1200s until regional depopulation, but probably also a history of violent events at Sand Canyon Pueblo itself. These lines of evidence and other evidence of circumstances surrounding the demise of the village are discussed in a separate publication (Kuckelman 2007*1).

Evidence of Relatedness


In this section, we present evidence of intrasite relatedness, such as congenital, developmental, and genetic anomalies, evidence of relatedness in the results of a bone-chemistry study (Katzenberg 1995*1), and contextual evidence of relatedness, such as physical proximity of remains. Some evidence of intersite relatedness is also discussed.

Intrasite Evidence of Relatedness


Evidence of genetic relatedness was found on the remains of two individuals located in the excavated group of structures in Block 100. The remains of a robust male 40 to 45 years old (HRO 2) and a female 18 to 20 years old (HRO 3) were found in abandonment contexts on the floors of Room 105 and Kiva 107, respectively (Database Map 4021, Database Map 4037, and Database Map 4043). Several lines of evidence point to a genetic connection between these two individuals. First, among those having a measurable femur or tibia, this male and female were the two tallest individuals whose remains were found at the site (Table 13). Second, these two individuals both have clavicles of unusual size; his is large and massive (only the right one was found). Hers are extremely long—144.5 mm, which is 13.5 mm longer than those of the two other adult females in the Sand Canyon assemblage for whom clavicle length is measurable, even though the circumferences of the clavicles of all three of these females are identical (9 mm).


A third line of evidence is the possible genetic link between the abnormal foot morphology of the male (HRO 2) and the various dental anomalies of this same male and the aforementioned female (HRO 3). The male individual was afflicted with postaxial foot polydactyly. That is, he was born with six toes on his right foot, and the extra toe projected from the fifth digit, or smallest toe, which was indicated skeletally by a bifid fifth metatarsal. Postaxial polydactyly of the foot has been associated with individuals of Amerindian ancestry and parental subfertility (Castilla et al. 1997*1). Today, this anomaly is usually associated with recognizable syndromes; both hand and foot polydactyly have been associated with more than 100 disorders (Biesecker 2002*1). Some syndromes associated with postaxial polydactyly (such as Weyers acrofacial dysostosis) include abnormalities such as anomalous teeth (Howard et al. 1997*1); HRO 2 had peg teeth in place of the third maxillary molars (Figure 1). Another type of dental anomaly that is linked genetically with polydactyly is hypodontia, the congenital absence of one to six teeth. HRO 2 was missing his left mandibular third molar, possibly congenitally. (In an early report on a subset of the human remains from Sand Canyon, Hoffman [1985*1:12] observes that abnormalities present in the dentition of HRO 2 could indicate inbreeding.) The mandibular lateral incisors of the possibly related young female, HRO 3, whose remains were found nearby, were missing congenitally. Today, the congenital absence of these particular teeth is rare—in a Finnish study of individuals with congenitally missing teeth, only 1 percent of the subjects were missing their lower lateral incisors (Arte 2001*1:18–19). Although the incidence of this anomaly might have been greater among the Pueblo inhabitants of the ancient Southwest, the multiple lines of evidence that HROs 2 and 3 were genetically related, when considered together, are very suggestive. Evidence of an additional individual with possible biological membership in the residential group represented by the more complete remains of HRO 2 and HRO 3 was noted in the very sparse and disarticulated remains of HRO 4b that were found on the floor of Kiva 108; like HRO 2, this young woman also had a very pointed mandible.


Other evidence of possible relatedness was found among the remains of individuals discovered in the cluster of excavated structures in Block 1000 (Database Map 4121). Two of these individuals (HROs 20 and 21) were afflicted with craniosynostosis, a congenital deformity in which at least one cranial suture fuses prematurely. One result of this condition is usually an abnormal head shape, although other, more serious effects—including mental impairment—are possible and depend largely on the precise age at which the fusion occurs and the level of intracranial pressure that results during growth. A possible male 20 years of age (HRO 20) whose remains were found in the collapsed roofing material of Room 1001 (Database Map 4125) suffered from scaphocephaly, or premature fusion of the sagittal suture. This type of craniosynostosis results in a skull that is long and narrow front to back. A female 15 to 20 years old (HRO 21), whose remains were found on or near the floor of the same structure (Database Map 4125), suffered from premature fusion of both lambdoidal sutures (posterior plagiocephaly).


Craniosynostosis can occur in isolation or may be associated with one of many different genetic disorders. A variety of disabilities such as headaches, developmental delays, seizures, and even blindness can result from this condition, particularly if intracranial pressure is great. In the U.S. today, the incidence of craniosynostosis is between one in 1,000 and four in 10,000 births (Sheth and Iskandar 2001*1). Although it is possible that the incidence of this disorder was higher in this prehistoric population, analyses of archaeological skeletal populations in the Southwest have not indicated that this was a common disorder. Therefore, the occurrence of this disorder in these two young people, whose remains were found in abandonment contexts in the same room, strongly suggests a close genetic relationship, such as that of cousins, siblings, or even (considering their ages) fraternal twins.


A genetic abnormality of the sternum was noted on the remains of two individuals—the female discussed above whose lambdoidal sutures were prematurely fused (HRO 21) and a subadult 15 years of age (HRO 12) whose remains were found in an abandonment context in Room 1005 (Database Map 4121 and Database Map 4140). This abnormality consists of an odd ossification pattern of the sternum; the disto-lateral portion of the sternal body is separate from the rest of the sternum. It is thus likely that these two individuals were genetically related, possibly siblings or cousins. And if the female (HRO 21) was also genetically related to the possible male in Room 1001 (HRO 20), then all three of these young people (HROs 12, 20, and 21) would have been related (see Table 15).


Other possible evidence of relatedness among the remains found in Block 1000 at Sand Canyon Pueblo consists of small pits on the crania of a child 5 to 6 years old (HRO 13), a child about 8 years old (HRO 22), and an adolescent 12 to 15 years old (HRO 19). These pits, or foramina, are located on the temporal lines and are present on both sides of the skulls of HROs 13 and 22, and on one side of the skull of HRO 19 (Katzenberg 1992*1). The remains of these individuals were found in abandonment contexts; HRO 13 was on the floor of Room 1002 (Database Map 4129), and HROs 19 and 22 were on the floor of Kiva 1004 (Database Map 4121 and Database Map 4135). These subadults could have been siblings or cousins.


Evidence of possible relatedness was also found between individuals whose remains were located in separate roomblocks. A sternal anomaly was found on the remains of the male in Block 100 (HRO 2)—the xiphoid process of his sternum is notched. It is not known whether this type of sternal anomaly is genetically related to the odd ossification pattern on the sterni of HROs 12 and 21 in Block 1000. If so, these anomalous sterni could indicate consanguinity between HRO 2 in Block 100 and these young people in Block 1000. In addition, a female 20 to 30 years old (HRO 10) whose remains were found in an abandonment context in Block 1000 (Room 1005) was, like HRO 3, missing her mandibular lateral incisors congenitally. In modern populations, the congenital absence of these particular teeth is rare (Arte 2001*1:18–19; McSherry 1998*1:210); therefore, the absence of these same teeth in these two adult females very likely indicates relatedness.


Other evidence of possible relatedness consists of the physical proximity of formal burials. Six subadults (HROs 8, 9, 15, 16, 17, and 18) were formally interred in Room 1017, a kiva corner room. No direct osteological evidence of relatedness was observed on these remains; however, the interment of these remains into one room suggests that these subadults were all residents of the associated suite (Kiva Suite 1004) and were thus probably related genetically. There is evidence from Chaco Canyon that individuals whose remains were buried within one room were consanguineous; on the basis of craniometric analysis, Akins (2003*1:104–105) concludes that two separate clusters of rooms at Pueblo Bonito were burial facilities for two different families. However, if it was customary at Sand Canyon for each family to bury its dead within its own residential area, then why were no formal burials found in the structures within Kiva Suites 208, 308, 501, and 1206, suites that were completely excavated?


Bone-chemistry data were collected for selected skeletal remains from Sand Canyon Pueblo. HROs 1 through 8, 10 through 17, and 19 through 22 were analyzed for stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes (Katzenberg 1995*1). In her report on the results of this analysis, Katzenberg (1995*1:2) states that a significantly lower stable carbon value for one individual (HRO 14) could indicate that she grew up in an area in which the diet was less reliant on maize than that of the other tested individuals from Sand Canyon Pueblo. However, the carbon value upon which this inference was based (-10.2) is erroneous, and the correct value (-6.5) is well within the range of carbon isotope values for the other individuals tested from Sand Canyon. Thus, the bone-chemistry results indicate that the diets of all of the tested individuals from this village were similar and were heavily reliant on maize (M. Anne Katzenberg, personal communication 2006).

Intersite Evidence of Relatedness


Evidence of relatedness sheds light not only on the genetic composition of residents of a village but can also be used both to study possible genetic affiliations between the residents of different communities and regions and to track migrations through time. In the Sand Canyon assemblage, this type of evidence, particularly the presence of specific, genetically based anomalies and abnormalities, suggests some interesting affiliations.


There is evidence of possible relatedness between two of the individuals (HROs 20 and 21) at Sand Canyon Pueblo and one individual (HRO 3) at Woods Canyon Pueblo. The skull of an adult female at Woods Canyon who was 30 years of age at the time of her death exhibited craniosynostosis in the form of premature fusion of the sagittal and both lambdoidal sutures (Bradley 2002*2:Table 7). This very unusual condition, which, in this case, resulted in a rather square-shaped skull, could indicate that this individual was related to HROs 20 and 21, whose skulls exhibited premature fusion of the sagittal suture and both lambdoidal sutures, respectively; the remains of these two young people were found in abandonment contexts in Room 1001 at Sand Canyon Pueblo. HRO 3 at Woods Canyon Pueblo was one of 10 individuals whose remains had been placed on the floor of a kiva; the causes of death of these people could not be determined from the bones observed in the limited skeletal regions exposed within the test pit.


Evidence of possible interregional relatedness resulting from migration consists of postaxial foot polydactyly in the right foot of a male (HRO 2) at Sand Canyon Pueblo. The same anomaly was found in a collection of hand and foot bones from Room 330 at Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico (Barnes 1994*2:422). For a several reasons, the bones in this room at Pueblo Bonito are inferred to have been from individuals of higher status than individuals buried at small sites in Chaco Canyon but of lower status than numerous other individuals buried at Pueblo Bonito (Akins 2003*1:103). As presented by Barnes (1994*2:Figure 6), there are at least six different known skeletal variations of postaxial foot polydactyly; perhaps significantly, the cases of polydactyly from Sand Canyon and from Pueblo Bonito were of the same type, produced by a Y-shaped fifth metatarsal. This similarity suggests a genetic connection (Barnes 1994*2:427, 429). Furthermore, in both cases, the extra toe was located on the right foot; although, because the affected metatarsal at Pueblo Bonito was found in a collection of bones, one can't be certain that this individual didn't also have an extra toe on the left foot. On the sandstone cliff face behind Pueblo Bonito are two petroglyphs depicting right feet, and one petroglyph of a left foot; all exhibit an extra toe adjacent to the fifth toe (Barnes 1994*2:419).


Additional evidence of possible genetic ties between the residents of Chaco Canyon and those living later at Sand Canyon Pueblo consists of congenital anomalies of the skull. Two Chaco Canyon skulls, one of an adult and one of a child, are scaphocephalic (premature fusion of the sagittal suture) (Akins 1986*1:29); in the remains from Sand Canyon Pueblo, the skull of a 20 year old, possibly male (HRO 20), was also scaphocephalic. The sagittal and lambdoidal sutures were absent on the skull of an individual from Pueblo Bonito (Akins 1986*1:277–278); in the Sand Canyon collection, premature fusion of both lambdoidal sutures was present on a female 18 to 20 years old (HRO 3). Also present in the collection from Chaco Canyon are skulls with wormian bones along the lambdoidal suture (Akins 1986*1:25, 27); a young adult female at Sand Canyon (HRO 3) exhibited numerous wormian bones along this suture.


Lastly, a four-year-old child from Chaco Canyon (Akins 1986*1:55), a female 18 to 20 years old (HRO 3) from Sand Canyon, and a female 20 to 30 years old (HRO 10) from Sand Canyon were all missing their mandibular lateral incisors congenitally. As mentioned above, today the congenital absence of these particular teeth is rare—in a Finnish study of individuals with congenitally missing teeth, only 1 percent of the subjects were missing these particular teeth (Arte 2001*1:18–19). In addition, the same child from Chaco Canyon and HRO 3 from Sand Canyon both possessed very thin, light bones and other evidence of chronic illness, possibly the result of the same inherited syndrome.


These individuals represented in the collection of remains from Chaco Canyon are likely to have died 85 to 215 years before the residents of Sand Canyon Pueblo. Therefore, one possible scenario is that ancestors of some of the villagers at Sand Canyon Pueblo migrated from Chaco Canyon to the central Mesa Verde region in the late Pueblo II or the early Pueblo III period. If so, the movement of these individuals might be indicative of wider migration streams during that time. The presence of these anomalies also invites speculation regarding reproduction within a fairly small gene pool both at Pueblo Bonito and Sand Canyon Pueblo and the possibility of elevated status of the kin groups who resided in Blocks 100 and 1000 at Sand Canyon Pueblo.


A study of genetically based anomalies in wider populations has shown how the presence of the same anomalies in assemblages of different Pueblo groups can be used to infer probable genetic relationships between the groups (Barnes 1994*1). Although beyond the scope of this chapter, this type of research holds promise for detecting ancient Pueblo migration routes, a task that has proved difficult for Southwestern archaeologists.

Summary and Conclusions


The human skeletal remains found during excavations at Sand Canyon Pueblo are the only direct, physical evidence of the people who lived and died in this village. Although we cannot assume that the small sample of skeletal remains found during excavations is representative of all who lived in the pueblo, or even of all who died there, the analytic and contextual data nevertheless provide important information about many aspects of the lives and deaths of the ancestral Pueblo people of Sand Canyon Pueblo and the Mesa Verde region. Sand Canyon was occupied for a relatively short period—approximately 30 years—and most of the individuals represented by the human remains found at the site appear to have died during an even shorter period of time—between A.D. 1267 and approximately 1280. Because evidence indicates that construction of the village did not begin until the late A.D. 1240s or early 1250s (Chapter 4, paragraph 177), it is clear that at least four individuals (HROs 2, 14, 23, and 24) whose remains were found at Sand Canyon Pueblo were born before the village was founded and thus could not have been born there (Table 10). Of course, any of the other individuals in the assemblage might also have been born elsewhere and migrated to the village at any age. However, the remains from this site provide an invaluable record of Pueblo life just before the thirteenth-century depopulation of the region.


In the entire Sand Canyon human skeletal assemblage, at least 44 individuals are thought be represented, 32 of which were designated as human remains occurrences. Of these 32, nine were formally buried during the occupation of the village, and 23 were found in abandonment contexts. The latter did not show indications of formal interment, and several exhibited direct evidence of violent death.


Among the individuals whose bodies were formally buried, subadults are greatly overrepresented and adult males are greatly underrepresented; this might reflect specific mortuary practices, or it might be the result of the small sample size. In the abandonment-context subassemblage, adolescents (12 to 20 years old) are slightly overrepresented, and adult males are moderately underrepresented. The apparently aberrant frequencies of the remains of adolescents and adult males in abandonment contexts may reflect important features of abandonment events at this village, such as the ages and sexes of those present during one or more attacks on the village. There is evidence that some individuals who died were those least able to defend themselves against assault, either as a result of immaturity, advanced age, frail heath, ill health, or possibly mental disability. Perhaps the most robust adult men, those in their 20s and 30s, survived the attack, or the attackers chose to strike when those who were most able to fight back were away from the village.


The mortuary data from Sand Canyon Pueblo contribute to a growing body of regional mortuary data. Relatively few researchers (e.g., Akins 1986*1; Karhu 2000*1; Martin et al. 2001*1; Schlanger 1992*1) have studied mortuary patterning in ancestral Pueblo sites in the northern Southwest, but the evidence to date suggests that during the Pueblo III period many remains were interred in structures or in undetermined locations. Although middens were also used for interment during this time, few formal burials have been found in middens at Pueblo III sites during Crow Canyon excavations (Bradley 2002*2, 2003*1; Huber 1989*1; Katzenberg 1999*2; Kuckelman 2000*1). This might be a result of sampling or the removal of many remains from middens in historic times by pothunters.


Although the sample of formal burials for Sand Canyon Pueblo is very small, and the sampling of middens was not extensive, the burials that could be identified as formal at Sand Canyon were located within structures. In addition, there appears to be a paucity of formal burials of adult males dating from the Pueblo III period in the Sand Canyon and Woods Canyon localities in general. One of the four formal burials found during Crow Canyon's testing of small sites in the Sand Canyon locality is that of an adult male (Katzenberg 1999*2); no such remains were among the 11 formal burials at Woods Canyon Pueblo (Bradley 2002*2) or the nine formal burials at Sand Canyon Pueblo. It is thus possible that the remains of some adult males were interred elsewhere, perhaps away from habitations.


The residents of Sand Canyon Pueblo appear to have enjoyed relatively good health, as judged by the standard of that time. The evidence in the assemblage from this village indicates that individuals commonly experienced at least one growth-disruption episode before reaching seven years of age, but in most cases these incidents were not severe enough to seriously affect overall health. Dental pathology might have substantially compromised the health of two adult males—one (HRO 24) with extensive periodontal disease and another (HRO 2) with what was either an unusually large abscess or palatal cancer. The health conditions and diseases that cause porotic hyperostosis, including iron-deficiency anemia, appear to have affected this population less than other ancient Pueblo groups. The rate of periosteal reactions might have been slightly higher among the villagers at Sand Canyon than in other Southwest populations, possibly indicating an elevated incidence of systemic infectious diseases. If so, perhaps generally crowded living conditions in the village were culpable. However, as a measure of overall health, nutrition, and disease, the average to above-average stature of the assessable individuals in this assemblage suggests that these people generally enjoyed adequate nutrition and that serious disease did not adversely affect the growth of most individuals. In a study that focused on subadult health at this site, Bradley (1998*1:257) concludes that children were adequately nourished and generally healthy. The remains of the two tallest people in the Sand Canyon assemblage (HROs 2 and 3) exhibit substantial evidence of health-compromising conditions such as porotic hyperostosis, periostitis, and antemortem cranial fractures. Thus, whereas relative height in ancient populations can generally be interpreted to reflect overall health and quality of nutrition, such an interpretation should be applied cautiously to individual cases within populations.


The character of the Sand Canyon Pueblo assemblage offers an unusual opportunity to compare the overall health of individuals who were formally buried (that is, those who died of natural causes) with the overall health of those who were found in abandonment contexts (some of whom are known to have been killed and others who were probably killed). In other words, were the people whose remains were left in abandonment contexts "healthier" than those who died during the occupation of the village? The answer to this question is not clearcut. The data in Table 16 (health indicator comparisons) suggest that the individuals found in abandonment contexts actually suffered from more health problems than the formally buried individuals. If this is true, there could be several reasons for these results. One possibility is that the individuals found in abandonment contexts were able to survive the maladies that left these skeletal indicators, whereas the individuals whose remains were formally buried died in their youth from causes that left no apparent skeletal indicators.


Other important health indicators observed on the remains from this site include skeletal changes from tasks in which various villagers habitually engaged. The osteoarthritis data from the small sample of older adult remains from the site suggest that the elbows were subjected to the greatest amount of habitual exertion, whereas the data for the much larger assemblage from the UMUILAP project (Lambert 1999*1:138) indicates the most damage to the neck, lower back, shoulder, and wrists. This disparity could indicate a difference in the tasks engaged in most often by the individuals represented in these two assemblages. Other indicators that were found on the remains of middle-aged male (HRO 2) in the Sand Canyon assemblage suggest that this person was a craftsman who spent a great deal of time fashioning labor-intensive items that were braced between his knees. Pronounced wear on the molars of multiple adolescents suggests habitual activity such as the processing of leather. Thus, arthritis and unusual tooth wear are the most frequent indicators of occupational stress among the individuals represented in the Sand Canyon Pueblo assemblage.


Multiple occurrences of several genetically influenced skeletal or dental anomalies within the sample provide evidence of probable genetic relationships between specific individuals represented there. Possible genetic relationships are indicated between a middle-aged male and a young-adult female whose remains were found in Block 100, between three of the subadults whose remains were found in Block 1000, and between three different subadults, also from Block 1000. There is also evidence of consanguinity between the residents of Block 100 and Block 1000. In addition, traits observed on the remains of one adult male might have been the result of mating between closely related individuals, as noted by Hoffman (1985*1:12). The several subadults who were formally buried in Room 1017 were probably also related to one another. This evidence of relatedness between several individuals represented in the sample suggests that the remains are those of residents of Sand Canyon Pueblo rather than those of attackers; it is unlikely that the remains of slain attackers would be in consanguineous clusters of mixed age and sex. Also, warriors were typically males in their prime, and the remains of only two adult males, both middle-aged and ill, were present in the abandonment-context assemblage. This evidence of possible relatedness furthers our understanding of potential genetic relationships among members of the village as a whole, as well as between the individuals represented in this sample.


Evidence of possible intercommunity relatedness was also found in assemblages outside the Sand Canyon community. Two young people from Sand Canyon Pueblo might have been related to an adult female from Woods Canyon Pueblo; these individuals would have been roughly contemporary. Also, an adult of unknown sex from Pueblo Bonito, possibly of high status, might have been an ancestor of a male (and his blood relatives) at Sand Canyon Pueblo. This evidence suggests avenues for further research in relatedness; a great deal more empirical evidence is needed to substantiate suggestions of extracommunity relatedness such as these.


The threat of violence was clearly a fact of life at Sand Canyon Pueblo. In addition to the architectural evidence of defensiveness (see Chapter 4), the presence of healed fractures on the skulls of four individuals in this assemblage indicates a history of violence in the region during the middle to late A.D. 1200s and probably a history of violent events at Sand Canyon Pueblo itself. Also, the skulls of at least six individuals in this assemblage were intentionally fractured around the time of death. Perimortem abrasions or cut marks on various bones of at least four individuals are evidence of either wounds inflicted around the time of death or intentional damage caused to the remains shortly after death. The remains of these people and of numerous others were left in abandonment contexts, and these individuals are inferred to have died during one or more violent events that occurred at or near the end of the occupation of the village and of the region, about A.D. 1280. Evidence of the circumstances and events associated with the depopulation of the village is the focus of a separate study (Kuckelman 2007*1).

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