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Ref ID: 22460
Ref Type: Book Section
Authors: Halcrow, Siân E.
Tayles, Nancy
King, Charlotte L.
Title: Infant and child health and disease with agricultural intensification in mainland Southeast Asia
Date: 2016
Source: The Routledge handbook of bioarchaeology in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands
Place of Publication: Oxon, UK
New York
Publisher: Routledge
Language: English
Notes: Introduction: Over the past 50 years, there has been an increasing number of large-scale multidisciplinary research projects, mainly from present-day Thailand, on the prehistory of mainland Southeast Asia. These have contributed to understanding of settlement, culture and agricultural development in this region (Kijngam 1984
White 1986
Higham and Thosarat 2004, 2004a
Higham 2014). The prehistoric period in this region becomes archaeologically visible from about 4,000 years ago, after which time there is evidence for many changes taking place, including the intensification of agriculture, changes in social organisation resulting in the development of larger settlements, increasing population density and some evidence for greater contact with the wider world (Higham 2014
Higham and Rispoli 2014
King et al. 2014). The internationally applied model of prehistoric health change with agricultural development and intensification posits that the transition from hunting and foraging to agro-pastoral dependence had major implications for diet, weaning, and therefore fertility, with a related increase in infectious disease and decrease in general quality of life (Larsen 1995
Bocquet-Appel and Naji 2006). The rise in fertility with this transition has been related mainly to the increased availability of carbohydrate staples suitable for weaning foods, resulting in a shorter breastfeeding period and earlier return of regular ovulation after birth (Sellen and Smay 1999
Bentley et al. 2001). Other factors contributing to changes in fertility include the amount of maternal care afforded to infants, which has been found to be related to the level of pathogen load within the environment (Quinlan 2007). A deterioration in general health is related to increased population density and unsanitary living conditions as a consequence of people living a more sedentary lifestyle (Larsen 1995
Pinhasi and Stock 2011). Deterioration in health has also been associated with changes in the natural and social environment, including the introduction of novel diseases from increased contact with domestic animals and the movement of people with the establishment of wider networks of trade and exchange (Larsen 1995
Pinhasi and Stock 2011). Although agriculture developed independently in several places around the world, this model of prehistoric health change is based mainly on research in Europe and North America (Cohen and Armelagos 1984). Recent research in prehistoric Southeast Asia has questioned the universal applicability of the central bioarchaeological theory of health change with agricultural development and intensification, where it is apparent that human responses to agriculture are more complex and regionally specific than the model implies (Douglas 1996
Domett 2001
Pietrusewsky and Douglas 2002, 2002a
Tayles et al. 2009). This chapter assesses the applicability of this model to Southeast Asia using evidence from infant and child health. It has been established that this segment of the population is especially responsive to environmental stressors, making infants and children sensitive barometers of population health as a whole (Lewis 2007
Halcrow and Tayles 2008, 2011). This study is unique because it is the first time a regional synthesis of the health of prehistoric infants and children in Southeast Asia, or any tropical prehsitoric Asian society for that matter, has been undertaken. With the recovery of suitable skeletal collections spanning the beginnings of agriculture to the intensification of this process in Southeast Asia, we can now test the model of health change with agricultural intensification in the region using infants and children. By using a host of accepted indicators of biological stress, a comparison of health can be undertaken to investigate the influence that agricultural intensification had on these people during prehistory.
Date Created: 2/15/2016
Editors: Oxenham, Marc
Buckley, Hallie R.
Page Start: 158
Page End: 186