Dale L. Hutchinson. Bioarchaeology of the Florida Gulf Coast: Adaptation, Conflict, and Change. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2004. xx + 237 pp. $59.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8130-2706-7.
Reviewed by Mason W. Sheffield (Archaeologist, New South Associates)
Published on H-Florida (June, 2005)
Of the numerous areas of specialty in the field of archaeology, Bioarchaeology has witnessed some of the most profound advances in methodology and theory, as well as a greatly expanded knowledge base. This particular field of study can provide a more complete picture of the lives of those in the past as it focuses not on the material culture that is left behind, but on the very corporeal remains of those persons.
Dale L. Hutchinson's work focuses on the subregion of the Gulf Coast of Florida. While much of Florida has been thoroughly subjected to academic inquiry, the author states that this region remains relatively untouched in regards to prehistoric biological adaptation, despite a wealth of information. This book offers the reader insight into this somewhat mysterious area of the country.
Hutchinson has divided his book into six chapters. The first chapter serves to acquaint the reader with the prehistory of Florida and begins with a breakdown of the cultural periods (Paleoindian through Mississippian). The author gives a good summary of these periods, but detail is spared. The discussion of time periods shifts to a brief discussion of human adaptation in relation to variables such as sociology, behavior, and environment. After this the author lays out the goals and assumptions of the book. The four hypotheses of the study (diet, relationship of resource exploitation to pathological lesions, differences between interior and coastal populations, and differences by sex reflected in the skeletal remains) including the tests that were conducted to prove or disprove them are presented.
Chapter 2 begins with a short introduction of the nine archaeological regions of Florida dating from 500 B.C. The author indicates that environment and behavior were inextricably linked and breaks the chapter into discussions of the environment, cultural history, and archaeology. Of the nine, the author confines his discussion to the Caloosahatchie, North Peninsular Gulf Coast, and Central Peninsular Gulf Coast regions.
The third chapter focuses on the archaeology and bioarchaeology of the Palmer Site (8So2). According to the author, the site has been explored since the late 1860s. The first portion of the chapter is dedicated to a listing of the investigations and their findings. Discussed are the Webb and Hrdlicka excavations of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, followed by the Bullen excavations of 1959 to 1962, the surveys carried out by James Miller and David Swindell in 1974 and 1979 through 1980, and finally the 1991 Torrence, Luer, and Almy excavations. The sectors of the site that each group studied are listed, as is a basic description of the findings. After these, the author begins with the description of the Palmer Burial Mound. The skeletal data collected from the 429 individuals buried in the mound is presented and includes details on minimum number of individuals (MNI), the taphonomic processes affecting the remains and their preservation, age and sex estimates, and demography.
Chapter 4 discusses the health and disease patterns seen in the skeletal remains of the Palmer population. The author begins with a description of the methods employed for pathology analysis followed by discussions of diet and masticatory behavior (carious lesions and dental chipping, alveolar infection, premortem tooth loss, and alveolar resorption), metabolic disruption (enamel hypolasias and porotic hyperostosis), infectious disease (inflammatory and resorptive responses, and specific infectious diseases), lifestyle and activity (osteoarthritis, and trauma), dietary reconstruction (stable isotope analysis), and dental microwear.
The fifth chapter examines the results of comparisons between prehistoric Florida populations in regards to health and nutrition. Also compared from this perspective are interior and coastal populations found in other areas of the Southeast. Health conditions that the author compares include: carious lesions, alveolar infections, dental chipping, dental enamel microwear, metabolic disruption (enamel hypoplasia and porotic hyperostosis), infectious disease, external auditory exostoses, osteoarthritis, trauma, and diet. Through these comparisons, the author accepts three of the four hypotheses that he presented in the introduction.
Chapter 6, entitled "Gulf Coast Traditions," discusses the results of the study in relation to the fourth hypotheses. The author gives a brief discussion of each of these hypothesis and the results of his findings.
A total of six appendices immediately follow chapter six. Appendices A and B are charts expressing the frequencies of teeth and cranial/postcranial elements belonging to adults and subadults by sex. Appendices C and D chart measurements of adult cranial/ mandibular and postcranial elements by sex respectively. The fifth appendix (E) is basically a small chapter and discusses stable isotope analysis and dietary inference. The final appendix (F) is patterned much like the previous appendix, but discusses dental microwear analysis.
This text provides a wealth of information and a fairly extensive bibliography concerning such a small geographic area. Students of bioarchaeology will greatly benefit from it as it covers nearly every facet of the discipline imaginable. Professionals would do well to include it in their private libraries.
The book has several flaws. The most minor is that a few of the pictures are a bit unclear and fuzzy. While overall it is fairly well-written, there are sections that seem cluttered. These sections simply do not flow very smoothly and read somewhat like grey literature. Professionals and serious students will most likely be able to overlook this, but the common reader may find this tiresome. Such readers may become discouraged by the complexity and density of the information presented. A good portion of this book is not for the layperson.
For students of bioarchaeology and those individuals interested in better understanding Florida Gulf Coast prehistory, this book offers a large amount of information in its 237 pages. All in all this is a good source and overview of the research potential offered by the area. Young scholars would do well to read it as it may inspire them to contribute to the field in ways not yet imagined.
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Mason W. Sheffield. Review of Hutchinson, Dale L., Bioarchaeology of the Florida Gulf Coast: Adaptation, Conflict, and Change.
H-Florida, H-Net Reviews.
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