A Biohistorical Approach to Spanish Conquest and Colonization

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The Ohio State University

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European introduction into the Western Hemisphere brought unprecedented physical and cultural changes to Native Americans. The goal of this thesis is to explore why North and South American Native groups experienced a variety of levels of contact experience with the Spanish. This thesis employs a historical and bioarchaeological interdisciplinary approach to identify a variable that could predict the degree of biological impact that Native Americans experienced during Spanish conquest and colonization. To analyze Native-Spanish interactions I present an in-depth look into three bioarchaeological case studies, including the Guale of the Georgia Bight, the Tipu Maya of Belize, and the Moche of Mórrope, Peru. I found that despite these three sites all interacting with the Spanish, the consequences of Spanish contact were different in each location. The Tipu Maya displayed little negative biological impact due to their location in the Spanish borderlands. The Guale and Moche both experienced the negative biological impacts of aggregation. The Moche specifically experienced the establishment of reducciónes and the Guale had the additional physical burden of the repartimiento labor system. Additional comparisons with other sites that had commonalities with the Guale, Tipu Maya, and Moche revealed little overlap in contact experience. Given the current state of contact research, I found that there are limited variables that could predict the consequences of Native-Spanish contact. The variation in the impacts of European contact is dependent upon the individual context and circumstances of each site or Native group. This research is important because if we can understand the outcome of past cross-cultural interactions on individual and population health, then we can understand modern interactions and the consequences it could be having on our own health.



Bioarchaeology, Biohistorical, New World Colonization, Spanish Conquest