Cheating death in prehistory: pathology, trauma, disability, and care during the archaic period in North Alabama
Bioarchaeological studies exploring provision of care for the disabled in prehistoric societies often have received criticism on the basis of lack of evidence or inadequate rigorous inquiry. The recently introduced bioarchaeology of care model alleviates these criticisms by providing a standardized methodology for the identification of care in the archaeological record. This study applies this new model for care research to a prehistoric Archaic Period population from the Mulberry Creek site (1Ct27) in North Alabama, exploring possible trends in care. This region has long been known to demonstrate evidence of violence in the past, but has never been examined in relation to what could be viewed as the opposite of violence: caregiving behaviors. It is argued that the use of a combination of skeletal, artefactual, mortuary, and ethnohistorical analysis can reveal important trends in disability and provision of care in prehistory. The results of this study show that care was occurring at the site during the Late Archaic Period, and suggest that the decision to provide care was likely linked to complex social and biological factors of individual and group identity. This information provides valuable insight into the treatment of disabled individuals in the past, and adds to our understanding of the peoples of prehistoric Alabama and the wider Southeastern United States.