Re: Questions about Starvation and War

Cameron Laird (claird@Starbase.NeoSoft.COM)
30 Jan 1995 09:10:42 -0600

In article <JMC.95Jan29140104@SAIL.Stanford.EDU>,
John McCarthy <jmc@cs.Stanford.EDU> wrote:
>Conjecture -
>1. Is it possible to tell from skeletons whether the deceased were
>starving or malnourished?
Yes and no, from my amateur understanding.
The most certain data will be about chronic
nutritional conditions, but the scenarios
you're describing could have their action
compressed into the last months of a person's
life. Are there osteologic indicators for
that? I've never heard of them, but let's
give the sci.archaeolog-ists a chance.
>2. How often is it possible to tell whether the deceased were killed
>in war?
>3. Is there any present evidence about these questions with regard to
>American Indians? Specifically, are any effects of the Little Ice Age
>known or conjectured?
>[The Little Ice Age was several centuries of very cold winters in the
>Northern Hemisphere. It is believed to have wiped out the Viking
>settlements in Greenland and Labrador and, I believe I read, Eskimo
>settlements in Northwest Greenland. I haven't read about it having
>any effects on American Indians.]
"Eskimo settlements" are often wiped out.
Residential sites in the High Arctic might
include a dozen people, or fewer, and acute
incidents, even during otherwise favorable
times, can obliterate a whole community of
this size. Not only can this happen, but
there are folktales that tell us it does
(although I can't put my hands on any refer-
ences just now). So answering your question
might require more subtlety than one would
first expect.

Also, I want to clarify what you've written
about the Greenland and Labrador Vikings.
There's a small industry of researchers
re-constructing their life. Again, I have
little familiarity with the field, but my
impression is as yours, that there's general
agreement that climatic vicissitudes did them
in. There are variations on the theme, though;
some scholars emphasize hostility from indi-
genes, some speculate that the Vikings didn't
disappear, just assimilated, and so on.


Cameron Laird +1 713 267 7966 +1 713 996 8546