The skeletal remains of an ancient Hohokam disabled woman were unearthed at a site near Tempe, Arizona, USA. It appears she suffered from Scoliosis, Rickets, and TB. She was a young Hohokam woman who’d been buried with precious grave goods and it appears her burial was one of great reverence. Nearly 200 other burials are in the same area but none like this young disabled woman’s.
The remains consisted of a complete skeleton and it is estimated that she was around 20 years old when she died. The grave is known as Burial 167. Several ceramic items were found in the grave indicating the great respect her community must have had for her.
This excavation was led by Eric Cox and he wonders just how she even survived to the age of 20 with her disabilities. He also considers it mysterious as to why she was given such a rich burial typically only reserved for elders and Hohokam elites. Well it is no mystery really as I think our ancients respected disabled people rather than shunned them as some do in our modern society. Contrary to popular misconception ancient societies were not as “savage” as we’ve been led to believe!
A large Hohokam village was also located near this cemetery in which the young woman’s remains were found. It is believed to have been inhabited by the Hohokam from 700-1400 CE. The site was actually first documented in the 1940s and is known as “La Plaza.” However, most of the history of the site was lost due to the growth of Tempe and Phoenix along with the Arizona State University campus.
Researchers said that when they dug the skeletal remains up they were struck by the oddness of the skeleton. Her left side was gracile as if it had not developed along with her right side. The left side was like it belonged to a 5 ft high person while the right side looked like it belonged to a 5 ft 6 in tall person. Her post-cranial skeleton was stained brown but there was no indication of burning of her remains or anything else for that matter. So we don’t know why or how this was stained brown.
The young woman’s skeleton also revealed she had cavities in her vertebrae and leg bones likely caused from some sort of systemic infection. Her spine was curved noticeably (scoliosis) at an angle of about 55 degrees. This could have been caused by a lack of Vitamin D in her diet researchers have theorized. This could have been the result of lack of sunlight from which we get Vitamin D as one source. The young woman may have been so disabled that she couldn’t or seldom was able to go outside. Likely she could not walk also and she may have been born with her disabilities.
Most Hohokam people consumed a diet that caused problems with their teeth. BUT this young disabled woman had PERFECT TEETH surprisingly!! What this tells us is that she didn’t eat the same foods most Hohokam people ate and this may be indicative of some high status she held in Hohokam society.