Age distribution of deaths and average age at death among adult skeletons from Copan, Honduras

Rebecca Storey, University of Houston

An important problem for paleodemography is determining a reasonable estimation of the age-distribution of deaths in the population. However, it is clear that present methods for skeletal aging of adults over 30 years old at death are problematic. Various methods have been suggested to improve age estimations. Several Bayesian methods and seriation from youngest to oldest are compared, using age-related changes in the auricular surface of the pelvis. A Precolumbian Maya skeletal population of adults from Copan, Honduras, was employed for this test. These skeletons were expected, based on archaeological context, to proceed from a population in decline, and all methods do reveal an older adult population (mean age > 40), as would be expected from fertility effects upon age at death distributions. However, as usual, “the devil is in the details,” and the implications of the similarities and differences for paleodemographic inference among the methods will be discussed.

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Presented in Poster Session 3