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Health of Ancient South American Peoples

            Paleopathological examination of a skeleton can reveal intricacies in the life way of persons of the past. Several studies have been conducted to obtain information for a comparative analysis of post-contact diseases inflicted upon the Americas to trace the origin or presence of certain infectious diseases, particularly those normally associated with Columbian contact e.g. the syphilis (Gerzsten et al. 1997). It should be noted that evidence of pre-contact syphilis in South America is not present. This paper examines several separate studies of disease and trauma in pre-Columbian South America. Gathering several sources that cover a broadd scope will present insight on diseases and other stressors that affected the South American population prior to colonialism through a full analysis of the body. Taking this approach will subsequently create a plausible image of life, socio-economic inequality, and subsistence of various strata in the emerging settlement hierarchies and the latter social stratification as indicators of South American health differences. .
             The natural aridity of some South American regions, the taphonomic processes, created numerous mummies. The dry climate decreased the rate of decomposition to stagnation, preserving a categorical amount of specimen to analyze. This rendered each natural mummification process a true asset, due to the undisturbed burials, many in situ and with soft tissue for potential DNA analysis. Therefore, research analyses conducted was largely done so on mummified remains. .
             Disease of the Skull .
             The largest quantity of data came from the analysis of the skull. This is most likely due to the preservation rate of the skull and consequently, to the aforementioned climate-assisted mummification. Gerszten et al. (1997) reiterates the prevalence of skull investigations in their research analysis of pre-Columbian South America. 700 human cranium were evaluated, the skulls, some dated 8000 years old, were selected from the Andean region of southern Peru and northern Chile.

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