Natural Resources, School of


Date of this Version


Document Type



Plains Anthropologist, 1992


Vertebral pathology has long been a useful criterion for anthropologists in the assessment of activity patterns, stress, and general health of extinct peoples. This method of analysis, however, has never been applied to the peoples of the Nebraska Great Plains. This study is the first to concentrate on the indigenous Native Americans of this region, examining the spinal pathology present in the prehistoric and historic skeletal remains. Pathology present in the form of spondylolysis, Schmorl's nodes, osteophytosis (degenerative disc disease), and osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease), provides evidence to suggest differing activity patterns and levels of stress in Plains groups before and after European contact. Higher levels of acute stress and trauma in the historic individuals are documented. Gender-specific vertebral pathology, expressed through differential patterns of degenerative disease between the historic females and males, is also noted.