Scurvy in a tropical paradise? Evaluating the possibility of infant and adult vitamin C deficiency in the Lapita skeletal sample of Teouma, Vanuatu, Pacific islands

Hallie R Buckley, R.L. Kinaston, S.E. Halcrow, Aimee Foster, Matthew Spriggs, Stuart Bedford

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    The Neolithic colonisation of the Pacific islands was one of the most challenging migration events in human history. The regions east of the Solomon Islands were colonised relatively recently by a people known as the Lapita. The Lapita brought with them a 'transported landscape' of domesticated plants and animals that had to be established upon arrival for the survival of these fledgling communities. Colonisation of these previously uninhabited islands was potentially perilous, and could leave colonisers vulnerable to periods of resource stress. The largest cemetery sample of Lapita people from the site of Teouma in Vanuatu offers a unique opportunity to assess the impact of colonisation on the health of pioneering populations. This paper explores the possibility that Teouma people experienced vitamin C deficiency as one of the consequences of the agricultural subsistence practices during the initial phases of island colonisation. Skeletal lesions in infants and adults indicative of scurvy suggest that initial colonisation phases in the Pacific islands involved precarious times involving deficiencies of key nutrients. Colonisation of the Pacific islands may share similar frameworks and problems as periods of subsistence transition in other parts of the world.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)72-85
    JournalInternational Journal of Paleopathology
    Volume5
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2014

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