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Anatomy Otago: Oh the places you'll go!

Friday, 5 February 2016 9:57am

Members of the Anatomy Department’s Biological Anthropology research group.
Gail (back left of photo), Anne (back right of photo) and Charlotte (front of photo) are members of the Anatomy Department’s Biological Anthropology research group.

Postdoctoral Fellow Dr Charlotte King and PhD students Gail Elliott and Anne Sohler-Snoddy have recently returned from a research trip to Chile. They were gathering important data for a project that looks at the health of prehistoric people in northern Chile, focusing on their transition from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to subsistence farming.

Gail’s research focuses on testing the universally applied bioarchaeological model for the relationship between the development of agriculture and physical health. She is using growth as a proxy for stress, using a large sample of prehistoric remains from the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile.

Anne’s research focuses on the impact of agricultural intensification in the Atacama on the prevalence of infectious and metabolic disease. She will do a complete pathological inventory of the human remains from selected sites from the pre-agricultural and post-agricultural periods.

For Charlotte, it was her second trip to Chile. She collected small samples from the teeth and bones of mummies housed at the Museo San Miguel de Azapa, in Arica. She will use these to determine what types of food the people were eating, at what age infants were weaned, and what the climatic conditions were like at the time they were living.

To form a baseline of their dietary components, Charlotte also spent time at the local food markets collecting food samples from the sellers, although she admits she spent a lot of that time confusing the locals: they couldn’t understand why she only wanted the bones of the fish, not the edible parts?!?

The Principal Investigator for their project is Dr Sian Halcrow (Department of Anatomy), with Associate Investigators Dr Bernado Arriaza and Dr Vivien Standen (Universidad de Tarapaca, Chile) and Dr Andrew Millard (Durham University, UK). Their projects received funding from the Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Fund in the 2015 round, as well as a Rutherford Postdoctoral Fellowship and the Ruggles-Gates Fund for Biological Anthropology.