Analysis of Human Remains from the Siriki Shell Mound, Northwestern Guyana
Unique in the prehistory of northeastern South America and the Guiana Shield are the shell mound sites of Guyana. Located within the northwestern part of the country, the mounds which consist of accumulations of shell refuse were utilized as living platforms and as locations for human burials. Recent excavations at the site of Siriki, the largest of the Guyana shell mounds, document multiple occupations spanning a period of 4140-270 RCYBP. The cultural material assemblage consists of 70 artifacts of the so-called Alaka Phase—a Middle to Late Holocene pattern emphasizing the use of shellfish. Excavations recovered the remains of nine individuals from different locations within the mound and spanning the temporal use of the location. Analysis indicates the presence of adults and sub-adults, at least one male individual, evidence of both antemortem and postmortem damage, and pathologies that include osteophytic lipping in vertebrae. As human remains rarely preserve in the northern Amazon, this analysis will provide important baseline data relevant to a more complete understanding of the skeletal biology of regional Holocene populations.
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