Paleopathology and children in the Andes: Local/situated biologies and future directions

Deborah E. Blom, Kelly J. Knudson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


In the decades since Verano (1997) published his foundational piece on Andean paleopathology, scholars have recognized the importance of the bioarchaeology of childhood. Yet, scholarship on ancient childhood in the Andes deemphasizes paleopathology. Nonadult paleopathological data are often employed in large-scale, biocultural studies focused on environmental or political adaptations; however, they can also elucidate children's individual lived experiences and roles in society. To generate culturally-meaningful paleopathological data, we must take a contextualized approach to our analyses and interpretations. Disparate use of chronological age in published datasets makes synthesis across studies problematic, and ethnohistorical and ethnographic data on Andean children demonstrate that developmental age categories, rather than chronological age ranges, are most appropriate. Further, paleopathological data can best inform our investigations when they are combined with related datasets such as those on sex, diet, activity, and mobility. With that in mind, we use the theoretical framework of “local biologies” (and the related “situated biologies”), where biology is viewed as heavily contingent on culturally-specific beliefs and practices and local physical, sociocultural, and political environments (Lock, 1993, 2001; Niewöhner and Lock, 2018). Local biologies approaches can enrich social bioarchaeology and paleopathology to by specifically situating children and their experiences within the ancient Andean world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-75
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Paleopathology
StatePublished - Jun 2020


  • Andean South America
  • Bioarchaeology
  • Childhood
  • Middle Horizon
  • Nonadults
  • Tiwanaku

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Archaeology


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