Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Arts




Andrew Nelson


This MA thesis investigates non-specific childhood stress at Rinconada Alta through the analysis of linear enamel hypoplastic defects (LEH). Dental casts were taken from a sample of teeth from predominantly Inca-period, Yschma remains (with some admixture of the Late Intermediate period burials). The sample consists of 10 adult females, 11 adult males, and 5 adolescents of indeterminate sex with fully occluded adult teeth (with the exception of the third molars). This thesis employs Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), which increases the visibility of linear defects, to determine the frequency, age, and duration at which metabolic disruption affected enamel growth of the permanent dentition during early childhood. The use of SEM to examine dental enamel in Andean populations is relatively novel, despite this technique being used widely elsewhere in dental anthropology. The secondary aim of this thesis is to compare the results of LEH analysis from Rinconada Alta to several other penecontemporaneous coastal, pre-Columbian sites from the Andean region. Finally, two different equation- based methods of enamel defect age estimation were compared to test the use of these formulae on a sample of South American origin. This research aims to shed new light on childhood stress in pre-Columbian Peru and expand bioarchaeological dental literature by using microscopic (SEM) methods to examine LEH alongside macroscopic methods of defect observation.

Summary for Lay Audience

This MA thesis research examines changes in the frequency and duration of childhood stress (i.e. illness, malnutrition) at the site of Rinconada Alta on the Central coast of Peru. This region was incorporated into the Inca empire around 1470 CE and was occupied by the Yschma culture prior to conquest. The permanent (adult) teeth form during the first few years of life and provide a "snapshot" of childhood health as the enamel forms. Dental casts collected from adult and adolescent skeletons from the site of Rinconada Alta will be examined for dental indicators of stress using Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM). The goal of this research is to use SEM dental analysis to better understand how Inca conquest on the Central coast may have impacted childhood stress at Rinconada Alta. This research broadly contributes to bioarchaeologists’ knowledge of prehistoric, Andean lifeways, and is part of a long-term, collaborative bioarchaeological study of the human remains at Rinconada Alta overseen by my supervisor at Western University, Dr. Andrew Nelson.