Sobolik, Kristin D. (1991-08). Paleonutrition of the Lower Pecos Region of the Chihuahuan Desert. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • Paleonutritional analyses require an integration of dietary disciplines to determine both the diet of a prehistoric population and the subsequent nutritional intake. Under optimal conditions, the zooarchaeology, paleoethnobotany, coprolitic material, and bioarchaeology of an area should be analyzed to determine paleonutrition. This study presents the information gained through a paleonutritional analysis of the Archaic populations of the Lower Pecos Region of the Chihuahuan Desert. It incorporates all four dietary disciplines, and shows that an integrative approach is essential for such analyses. The analysis reveals that the Lower Pecos populations had access to the nutrients required for a healthy existence. The staples of the population: agave, prickly pear, mesquite, nuts, rabbits, rodents, deer, and fish, were excellent sources of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. The high frequency of dental caries, abscessing, and antemortem tooth loss also indicates that the diet had a high carbohydrate content. The large variety of supplementary dietary items provided essential amino acids, trace elements, vitamins, and minerals. Stress was present in the population, as indicated by the presence of growth arrest lines: Harris lines and enamel hypoplasias. This stress may have been nutritionally related. The diet of the Lower Pecos populations may have been nutritionally unstable during the lean, winter months when only a few dietary staples were available. These staples would not provide all of the nutrients necessary, resulting in nutritional stress in the population. This type of stress was evident in specific individuals who did not have access to a balance of dietary items observed in the general dietary array of the Lower Pecos.

publication date

  • August 1991