Impairment, Disability, and Identity in the Middle Woodland Period: Life at the Juncture of Achondroplasia, Pregnancy, and Infection

  • Aviva A. CormierEmail author
  • Jane E. Buikstra
Part of the Bioarchaeology and Social Theory book series (BST)


A rare case of pre-Columbian skeletal dysplasia from the Middle Woodland period provides a vehicle for exploring the complexities of interpreting impairment and disability from bioarchaeological remains and archaeological contexts. The skeletal remains of an adult woman and an associated fetus were excavated from an intrusive pit burial within Mound 3 at the Elizabeth site in the Lower Illinois Valley. The differential diagnosis revealed that the female was experiencing a combined skeletal dysplasia, a nearly full-term pregnancy, and a disseminated bone infection at the time of death. This chapter will demonstrate the difficulty of utilizing the terminology of impairment and disability in a bioarchaeological context and the complexities of interpreting the associated societal and cultural implications for the people involved.


Achondroplasia Leri–Weill Dyschondrosteosis Skeletal dysplasia Bioarchaeology Paleopathology Middle Woodland period Impairment Disability Prehistoric dwarfism Identity Disability rights movement Native American folklore 



Acknowledgements to The Center for American Archeology and the Illinois State Museum for facilitating this research and to the Boston University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences for research funding. We are deeply grateful for the insightful and constructive comments from the reviewers and the editors of this volume. Many thanks to Taylor Thornton and Dr. Jason King for assisting with photography and Dr. Jonathan Bethard for comments and conversation during the writing process.


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ArchaeologyBoston UniversityBostonUSA
  2. 2.School of Human Evolution and Social ChangeArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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