Archaeothanatological Analysis of Mortuary Practices in the Prehistoric Sonoran Desert and Implications for Interpreting Sickness through Postmortem Processing
The La Playa archaeological site in the Sonoran Desert represents one of the earliest agricultural settlements in northwest Mexico. Over 310 mortuary features have been uncovered during salvage excavations since the site was discovered in 1930, revealing a wide variability in mortuary practices that may reflect specific treatments for pathological or transgressive individuals after death. This paper describes analyses of burials uncovered during the 2017 field season utilizing the taphonomy-centered archaeothanatological approach to excavation and interpretation. Using this approach, specific consideration was given to a number of burials with destructive cranial lesions that may be evidence for the earliest known cases of treponemal disease in the North American Desert West. Additionally, deviant burials uncovered during past excavations were reconsidered for evidence of pathology only visible using archaeothanatological analyses. Analysis revealed new insights into the mortuary behavior of these early agriculturalists, particularly concerning corpse processing before primary inhumation as well as cultural understandings of sickness. This has implications regarding social organization and the array of observed burial patterns at La Playa, from cremation, single and multiple burials, and deviant burials. These findings paint a broader picture of prehistoric inhabitants of the Sonoran Desert for whom limited cultural material has survived.
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Archaeothanatological Analysis of Mortuary Practices in the Prehistoric Sonoran Desert and Implications for Interpreting Sickness through Postmortem Processing. Jordan Krummel, James Watson. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 442577)
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min long: -114.346; min lat: 26.352 ; max long: -98.789; max lat: 38.411 ;
Abstract Id(s): 20146