St. George's Caye: A Bioarchaeological Study of Eighteenth Century Belize
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While a majority of archaeological investigations in Belize are centered on prehistoric Maya sites, a research gap exists regarding historic site excavations in the archaeological records of Belize. This study aims to increase the amount of information available about the recent history of Belize by assessing the skeletal biological profiles of the individuals interred in the historic cemetery at St. George’s Caye. The cemetery is dated to the mid to late eighteenth century and is the oldest historical, non-Maya cemetery in Belize (Garber 2010).
A total number of eighteen individuals were excavated during the 2011 St. George’s Caye Archaeological Field School, which took place in July of 2011. The individuals were in single, unmarked graves and had few identifying artifacts and coffin materials associated with them. Both non-metric and metric data were collected for the individuals analyzed. Maximum long bone lengths were used as a proxy for stature and compared against contemporaneous British and American populations via Analysis of Variance and Tukey’s Studentized Range (HSD) tests to assess baseline health. There were a relatively high percentage of males in comparison to females represented in the excavated individuals from cemetery at St. George’s Caye and the age distributions for the individuals were relatively young. Descriptive stature data seems to suggest a depressed level of health in the St. George’s Caye settlement, but long bone metric analysis in ANOVA does not support the hypothesis that the individuals differ significantly from their peers in the American colonies or in Britain. The prevalence of common dental pathologies observed in the St. George’s Caye sample is consistent with those observed in the British samples. The St. George’s Caye sample is consistent with a population that was not significantly different from its contemporaries. In order to gain a clearer understanding of the relationships of health and nutrition in colonial Belize, further research and excavations need to be undertaken to increase the sample size and clarify any patterns among the data collected.