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Georgia Bight

The earliest human remains from this area date to around 1100 bc, when populations were highly mobile and subsisted on foraged and hunted terrestrial and marine resources. After about ad 700, populations were far more reliant on culti- gens such as maize (Larsen 1998).

The transition from foraging to agriculture has, as with other areas, biological consequences. In his study of more than 600 burials dating to both foragers and agriculturalists along the Georgia coastal region, Larsen (1981) found that there were changes in both the teeth and bones of individuals, with a general reduction in the size of premolars and molars in women. In an additional study, Larsen (1983) examined the size of deciduous dentition during this transition. Deciduous teeth become smaller when populations change to agriculture. He attributes this change to the inability of the individuals to reach their full genetic potential (i.e., the largest possible tooth size) because of a more marginal diet. Although both sexes experience a general increase in carious lesions with the introduction of agriculture, the greatest increase occurs among women (Larsen 1998). This suggests that men and women were eating different diets, with women consuming more carbohydrates than men. Larsen (1998) draws an association between gendered labor, where men were still heavily involved in hunting activities. It is presently unclear at what age the diet for women and men diverge; that is, what age did boys begin to provision with the men?

In terms of diet, Larsen (1987) notes that groups living along the coast utilized more marine fishes, which may have helped to include more protein into the diet than may have been available to other groups included in this chapter. He attributes the relatively lower rates of porotic hyperostosis in coastal agricultural populations compared to other prehistoric agriculturalists to the availability of more protein.

In terms of burial traditions, the Georgia Bight groups maintained shell mounds. Burial appears to have been conducted along matrilineal lines (Thomas et al. 1979; 2008). Burials become increasingly elaborate, ultimately including Hopewell trade goods. In their comprehensive report about the human burials, Thomas et al. (1979) provide breakdowns of the demography of the individuals interred. They make a distinction between intrusive secondary burials and primary burials within the mound structures. For the Seaside Mound group, primary burials included both adults and juveniles, but only one child (aged 6—8 years) was listed as an intrusive secondary burial. They note the presence of at least 55 adults, but only 6 nonadults are listed for the Cunningham and Seaside Mound groups. This suggests that children may have been subject to a different burial program than the adults.

The majority of synthetic work for the Georgia coastal populations has been centered on exploring the lives of adults. Relatively poor preservation of skeletal materials in general makes large-scale generalizations about lived experience difficult. For juvenile remains, which typically have poorer preservation than do adult remains, this problem is compounded. It is therefore more difficult to understand the lived experience of childhood and adolescence. What is clear from published data is that children experienced nutritional stress. It is unclear at what age gendered labor would have become a social reality. It is likely that young children stayed with their mothers and would have been exposed to similar diets, but eventually, boys would have begun hunting and this would have led to a change in diet for them, with the girls continuing with the other women. This could have led to higher caries rates amongst adolescent girls depending on when this gender- specific trend began.

 
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