The demographic implications of European contact in northern spanish Florida
Russell, Katherine Ford
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The purpose of this thesis is to outline the impact of European contact on the Native American populations occupying the Georgia coast. This demographic study is based on 292 of the 431 individuals recovered from the Mission Santa Catalina de Guale on St. Catherines Island, Georgia. All of the individuals in the sample were aged using a modification of the method based on functional dental wear (described by A.E.W. Miles in 1963). The contact period sample is then compared to the precontact preagricultural and precontact agricultural samples from the Georgia coast. The results do not produce the expected demographic parameters of a living population, nor are the assumptions necessary for producing comparative lifetables fulfilled completely. All three samples suffer from an underenumeration of infants and juveniles and probably of older adults. Therefore, in order to compare demographic information derived from the three samples, it is necessary to assume that the same preservational and cultural biases are acting on all three samples in the same manner. Assuming that the biases are similar and that we can make some comparative inferences from these data, the age profiles of the Mission Santa Catalina sample and the precontact samples from the same region (as described by C.S. Larsen in 1982) indicate that the contact sample falls between the precontact preagricultural and precontact agricultural sample in overall robusticity and health of the population. The precontact preagricultural group has the highest survivorship, the contact sample is lower, and the precontact agricultural sample exhibits the lowest survivorship. Continued decrease in overall health during the contact period is anticipated by the bleak ethnohistoric picture assembled for the Spanish Mission period in Spanish Florida. However, the results presented here do not show a clear decrease in population robusticity at Santa Catalina de Guale; in fact, the data suggest an increase in overall health after the contact period. These results suggest that the problem of assessing overall population stress are more complex than simply measuring a number of stress indicators. The results will be discussed in their biological and historical context, and interpreted in light of the sample limitations.