Brief communication: A re-evaluation of the health index of southern Brazilian shellmound populations

Picture of a shellmound

The prehistoric shellmounds of Brazil, locally known as “Sambaquis”, are among the most studied archaeological sites in the country. They represent a continuous human occuipation of the coast by Fisher-Hunter-Gatherer populations from 8000 to 1200 years ago. In 2002, they were included in a comparative study and found to be among the healthiest prehistoric populations in the Americas. However, the individuals used in that initial study were missing their complete skeleton, calling for a comparative study to determine if these groups really led healthier lives than most. In our recent article (download it here) we analyzed 18 complete skeletons from the small shellmound Porto do Rio Vermelho 02 and examined several skeletal markers of health and life-style, to test wheter shellmound builder really were healthier than other prehistoric American populations. Our results show clearly that this population did not seem to be as healthy as we once thought, contradiction the previous depiction of these Brazilian groups.