Semester of Graduation

Summer 2022


Master of Arts (MA)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



There are many variables which can impact the preservation of skeletal remains. This study attempts to understand how six specific variables present at two Native American sites may have impacted the skeletal preservation of burials at those sites. Four of the six variables are extrinsic factors, which vary on the level of the burial pit; these are presence of shell artifacts in the burial, presence of ash in the pit fill, presence of a clay cap over the burial, and depth of the burial pit. The other two variables discussed are intrinsic factors, varying on the level of the individual; these are sex and age at death. The skeletal preservation of 26 individuals from Belcher Mounds (16CD13) and Gahagan (16RR01) was scored individually using 17 skeletal elements. These skeletal elements (clavicles, humerii, radii, ulnae, femora, tibia, fibulae, os coxae, and sacrum) were each assigned a score from 0 to 1, based on relative degree of preservation, which were then averaged together to create an Average Preservation Index (API) for each individual. Ten individuals, including all individuals from Gahagan, were excluded from data analysis due to having an API of 0. A T-test using the API scores for each variable was then run. Only one variable, the presence of a clay cap over the burial pit, was found to be statistically significant. The clay cap was found to have a negative impact on API, possibly due to the clay having an acidic pH.

Committee Chair

Brophy, Juliet



Available for download on Friday, May 23, 2025