Pre-Columbian Andean sickness ideology and the social experience of leishmaniasis: A contextualized analysis of bioarchaeological and paleopathological data from San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Sara J. Marsteller, Christina Torres-Rouff, Kelly Knudson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

24 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Sociocultural concepts associated with sickness can profoundly influence social processes and individual experiences of disease. Here, we consider the role of sociocultural beliefs concerning sickness in the construction of individuals' social identities in the pre-Columbian Andes. Paleopathological analyses reveal evidence of mucocutaneous leishmaniasis, a facially disfiguring infectious disease endemic to tropical lowland rainforests, in the skeletal remains of six females buried at Coyo Oriental and Tchecar Túmulo Sur, two Middle Horizon (AD 500-1000) cemeteries in the highland desert of San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. We use pre-Columbian Andean sickness ideology reconstructed from ethnography and ethnohistory as an interpretative framework for data from these individuals' mortuary contexts and isotopic analyses used to infer residential mobility. Our study demonstrates that consideration of sickness ideology in conjunction with multiple lines of bioarchaeological and archaeological evidence increases understanding of the social experience of disease at San Pedro during the Middle Horizon.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-34
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Paleopathology
Volume1
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2011

Fingerprint

Leishmaniasis
Chile
Mucocutaneous Leishmaniasis
Cemeteries
Cultural Anthropology
Social Identification
Population Dynamics
Communicable Diseases
Sickness
San Pedro De Atacama
Pre-Columbian
Ideology
Rainforest
Body Remains
Middle Horizon

Keywords

  • Mobility
  • Mortuary archaeology
  • Mucocutaneous leishmaniasis
  • Radiogenic strontium isotopes
  • Social identity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

Cite this

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abstract = "Sociocultural concepts associated with sickness can profoundly influence social processes and individual experiences of disease. Here, we consider the role of sociocultural beliefs concerning sickness in the construction of individuals' social identities in the pre-Columbian Andes. Paleopathological analyses reveal evidence of mucocutaneous leishmaniasis, a facially disfiguring infectious disease endemic to tropical lowland rainforests, in the skeletal remains of six females buried at Coyo Oriental and Tchecar T{\'u}mulo Sur, two Middle Horizon (AD 500-1000) cemeteries in the highland desert of San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. We use pre-Columbian Andean sickness ideology reconstructed from ethnography and ethnohistory as an interpretative framework for data from these individuals' mortuary contexts and isotopic analyses used to infer residential mobility. Our study demonstrates that consideration of sickness ideology in conjunction with multiple lines of bioarchaeological and archaeological evidence increases understanding of the social experience of disease at San Pedro during the Middle Horizon.",
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