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Great Inca Rebellion, The

Classroom Activity

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Activity Summary
Students analyze actual data from two prehistoric communities—a hunting community and an agricultural community—to infer the impacts of diet on health.

Learning Objectives
Students will be able to:

  • interpret data from skeletons of two prehistoric communities.

  • draw conclusions about the health of community members based on the data.

Materials for Each Home Team

  • copy of the "The Tale Bones Tell" student handout
    (PDF or HTML)
  • copy of the "The Two Communities" student handout
    (PDF or HTML)

Materials for Each Expert Team Member

  • copy of the "Community Demographics" student handout (Team I)
    (PDF or HTML)
  • copy of the "Skull: Porotic Changes" student handout (Team II)
    (PDF or HTML)
  • copy of the "Bones: Osteoporosis" student handout (Team III)
    (PDF or HTML)
  • copy of the "Bones: Growth Arrest Lines" student handout (Team III)
    (PDF or HTML)
  • copy of the "Teeth: Enamel Hypoplasia" student handout (Team IV)
    (PDF or HTML)
  • copy of the "Teeth: Cavities" student handout (Team V)
    (PDF 1 & PDF 2 or HTML)

Background
Anthropologists can learn a lot about a population from the skeletal remains of its members. Skeletal analysis can provide insight to how community members lived, including the conditions they may have lived under, what the state of their health was, what contributed to their deaths, and how old they were when they died. While skeletons cannot reveal everything about the health of their former inhabitants, they can offer many clues to what people ate and some of the diseases they suffered from. A collection of skeletons can shed light on health trends and a community's mortality patterns.

This activity provides data from prehistoric skeletal remains found at two sites in the American Midwest. Both sites are located in Kentucky and the skeletons are separated in time by about 4,000 years. The Indian Knoll skeletons belonged to members of a hunter-gatherer group who lived prior to the advent of farming in a community dated between 3300 b.c. and 2000 b.c. The site was located at the confluence of what are now called the Green and Ohio rivers in McHenry, Kentucky. The Hardin Village skeletons belonged to members of a farming community believed to have occupied their site between a.d. 1500 and a.d. 1675 The Hardin Village site was located in Eastern Kentucky. Claire Cassidy, a physical anthropologist, carefully analyzed the skeletons to determine age, sex, and evidence of pathologies.

In this activity, students will analyze actual archeological data to compare the health of hunter-gatherers to that of farmers. They will then draw inferences about the impacts of diet on health of the two communities.


Procedure
  1. Ask students to list some of the things they think that skeletal remains can tell us about a person. (Students may suggest gender, age, when the person lived, and how the person may have died.)

  2. Tell students that they will be analyzing data from real skeletons found in Kentucky. These skeletons represent people who lived more than 1,500 years ago. Students will be looking at data about different aspects of these people and making inferences about their health.

  3. Have students locate the general area where the skeletons were found on a U.S. map and create a time line that indicates when each of the sites were inhabited and what else was going on worldwide at that time (see Background for locations and dates).

  4. Use a jigsaw grouping for this activity. In this cooperative learning method students will first be organized into Home Teams. Each member of a Home Team will be assigned to a particular Expert Team. Home Team students will reorganize into their Expert Teams to learn information that they will teach the members of their Home Teams when they return there.

  5. Organize students into their Home Teams in groups of five and distribute the two Home Team handouts listed in the materials section. Review the activity with students. Have each team read the information about the two communities. Once all students are done, create a two-column graph on the board that lists each community and each of the foods they relied on. As a class, identify the main food groups that each of the foods belongs to (see Activity Answer for this list).

  6. Assign Expert Team assignments to each Home Team member (I–V) and then have students reorganize into their Expert Teams.

  7. Distribute the handouts for each Expert Team to each team member (note that Team III has two handouts and that the handout for Team V is two pages). Have students work in their Expert Teams to review, graph, and analyze the data on their handouts and answer the questions listed with each data set.

  8. After students have completed reviewing all the data in their Expert Teams, have them return to their Home Teams. Have the "experts" report their findings to other members of their Home Team.

  9. Summarize on the board what students learned from the data sets. Some questions to consider are:

    • How would students rate the health of the two groups?

    • What could students infer about the nature and quality of the diet of the Indian Knollers vs. the Hardin Villagers? Which might be more nutritionally balanced? Why?

    • From their analysis, can students draw any conclusions about the possible positive and negative impacts each type of diet had on the health of each community?

    • How much confidence do students have in their conclusions? Do they feel that the percentage of skeletons studied was sufficient to draw conclusions about the community?

    • What additional data would they like to have to increase their confidence in their conclusions?

    (See Activity Answer for more information.)

  10. To conclude, discuss any other interpretations students had regarding the data. Some questions to consider include:

    • Were there any data that students had questions about?

    • Were there any trends or patterns that students could not explain?

    • Which data sets were more difficult to interpret? Why? What additional information would students need to be able to draw better conclusions?

    • When did the data not support the overall conclusions?

    • What might influence a scientist's interpretation of a particular set of data?

    • What would be the best way to resolve differences in opinions?

  11. Discuss with students the nature of scientific endeavor and how it encourages scientists to evaluate each other's work and do additional studies to support or refute previous research and conclusions.

  12. As an extension, have students prepare a news report for the people of Hardin Village. In the report ask students to contrast the Hardin Villagers health with that of their hunting and gathering ancestors at Indian Knoll.


Activity Answer

Food Sources

Indian Knoll

Hardin Village

Food

Main Food Group

Food

Main Food Group

deer

protein

corn (main food source)

carbohydrate

raccoon

protein

beans

carbohydrate

beaver

protein

nuts

protein

muskrat

protein

deer

protein

otter

protein

elk

protein

wild turkey

protein

raccoon

protein

box turtle

protein

fox

protein

fish

protein

wild turkey

protein

mussels (seasonal)

protein

fish

protein

nuts

protein

 

 

wild fruits

carbohydrate

 

 

roots, bulbs, shoots

carbohydrate

 

 


Key Question

What do these skeletal remains reveal about the nutritional health of each community?

These data sets reveal that the health of the Hardin Villagers (who relied mostly on a carbohydrate diet) was poor in comparison to the health of Indian Knoll community members (who relied on a mixed diet of protein and carbohydrates).

The Hardin Villagers may have eaten less protein because of depleted game supplies due to hunting. Since farming supports higher densities of population than hunting and gathering, there likely would have been more people hunting—and eating—the same amount of fish and game. In addition, farmers are less mobile and less able to extend their hunting range during the time they are producing agricultural crops.

The skeletons in the Hardin Village community members showed higher incidences of osteoporosis, enamel hypoplasia, and cavities, all disease pathologies that can result from a nutritionally poor diet that leaves members more susceptible to infection and death. Although the Indian Knoll skeletons showed a higher incidence of porotic changes, they were mild and did not likely impact the health of community members. Though less frequently occurring, the severe porotic changes seen in the Hardin Villagers likely impacted their lifespan.

The Indian Knoll skeletons showed a higher incidence of growth arrest lines, possibly due to the fact that they suffered from seasonal food shortages during times when meat and plants were scarce. However, while agricultural practices allowed communities to better store food, agricultural communities may have suffered from diets that lacked the nutritional balance necessary for good health.

You may want to note to students that while this data reveals information about what affected some of the community members, scientists don't have the complete picture of these communities. Since not all food leaves an archeological record, scientists don't know what else community members may have eaten. They also don't know whether other pathologies not evident in the skeletons may have contributed to sickness and death. Studying a larger number of skeletons could increase their knowledge base and confidence in their conclusions.

Students may draw different conclusions from the data. This is true among working archeologists as well. Accept all reasonable answers.


Community Demographics
Student Handout Questions: Children Demographics

  1. What percentage of the population in Indian Knoll died before the age of 17? 44.6 percent

  2. What percentage of the population in Hardin Village died before age 17? 53.5 percent

  3. In what community and what age group was the highest mortality among children? Hardin Village, children ages 1–3

  4. What conclusions could you draw from this data and the information you have been given? Hardin Village had a higher rate of death among children. The high mortality rate of children between ages 1–3 in Hardin Village may have been because they did not get their nutritional requirements met, particularly protein requirements.

  5. Write down any other observations you have about this data set. Answers will vary.


Community Demographics
Student Handout Questions: Adult Demographics

  1. What do you notice about the longevity of males in the two communities? Males lived longer in Indian Knoll than males in Hardin Village. More males in Indian Knoll die in the 40–49 age group than males in Hardin Village.

  2. What do you notice about the longevity of females in the two communities? More females lived longer in Indian Knoll than in Hardin Village.

  3. What conclusions could you draw from this data and the information you have been given? Male members of Hardin Village did not live as long as male members of Indian Knoll. Perhaps more young adult men (ages 40–49) in Indian Knoll died than same-aged men in Hardin Village because more of them were exposed to higher-risk activities, such as hunting.

  4. Write down any other observations you have about this data set. Answers will vary.


Skull: Porotic Changes
Student Handout Questions

  1. What do you notice about the distribution of porotic changes in the skulls of the skeletons? Indian Knoll remains reveal a large percentage of porotic changes in community members aged 12 and older.

  2. In what age groups were porotic skull changes most prevalent? Ages 12–40+ in Indian Knoll and in ages 30–39 in Hardin Village.

  3. In which community were the porotic skull changes severe enough to impact the overall health of community members? Hardin Village.

  4. What conclusions could you draw from this data and the information you have been given? At first glance, it appears that young adult and adult members of Indian Knoll suffered more porotic damage to their skulls than their counterparts at Hardin Village. However, the data can be misleading if the severity of the changes are not taken into account. The porotic changes seen in Indian Knoll community members are considered insignificant; the changes seen in the Hardin Villagers are considered severe. The severity of porotic changes in Hardin Village community members may have been due to eating a low-protein diet, eating a diet heavy in corn, or a combination of both.

  5. Write down any other observations you have about this data set. Answers will vary.


Bones: Osteoporosis
Student Handout Questions

  1. How is osteoporosis distributed by age and sex in the two groups? More women 40+ in both age groups exhibit osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is much higher in Hardin Village for all age ranges except 40+ females, where it is comparable with the incidence in the Indian Knoll community.

  2. How do young women in Indian Knoll compare with young women in Hardin Village? Young women in Hardin Village have a much higher incidence of osteoporosis.

  3. What conclusions could you draw from this data and the information you have been given? Both males and females in Hardin Village may not have gotten the nutrients they needed to ward off osteoporosis. Poor nutrition may have led to osteoporosis in young women who became so thin that their bodies stopped producing the estrogen necessary for proper bone maintenance. Osteoporosis in the 40+ group may have been age-related.

  4. Write down any other observations you have about this data set. Answers will vary.


Bones: Growth Arrest Lines
Student Handout Questions

  1. The skeletons in both groups show growth arrest lines. What, if any, differences are there between the occurrences of these lines in the two populations? Indian Knoll has a much higher incidence of growth arrest lines.

  2. What conclusions could you draw from this data and the information you have been given? The fact that there are many lines suggests that members of Indian Knoll suffered multiple episodes of disease or starvation. This may have been due to the feast or famine cycle of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. The fewer lines evident on the bones of the Hardin Village skeletons may be due to the fact that the villagers' ability to store agricultural products allowed them a steady supply of food year-round.

  3. Write down any other observations you have about this data set. Answers will vary.


Teeth: Enamel Hypoplasia
Student Handout Question

  1. How do the percentages of children with enamel hypoplasia compare between the two communities? No children in the Indian Knoll community suffered from enamel hypoplasia. Children in the Hardin Village community ages 6–11 months and ages 1–5 years showed high rates of hypoplasia.

  2. What do you notice about the occurrence of hypoplasia among youths and adults at the two communities? Among Indian Knoll skeletons, the incidence of the severe form of hypoplasia is higher for youths; the mild form is higher for youths at Hardin Village. However, more adult skeletons from Hardin Village show the severe form of hypoplasia than at Indian Knoll. The moderate form of hypoplasia is comparable across youths and adults at both communities.

  3. What conclusions could you draw from this data and the information you have been given? The lack of hypoplasia in Indian Knoll children indicates that the community had relatively healthy mothers. The high rate of hypoplasia among children in Hardin Village suggests that their mothers were malnourished. The fact that more youths than adults in Indian Knoll died with severe hypoplasia could be due to the fact that they were weakened by repeated famine. Those that survived into adulthood with no hypoplasia may have had generally good nutrition or not suffered markedly from repeated exposure to malnutrition or disease.

  4. Write down any other observations you have about this data set. Answers will vary.


Teeth: Cavities
Student Handout Questions

  1. What do you notice about the distribution of cavities in children? Skeletons of Hardin Village children have a much higher incidence of cavities. Indian Knoll children show no incidence at all of cavities.

  2. What do you notice about the frequency of total cavities between the two groups? Members of Hardin Village show a significantly larger percentage of cavities than the Indian Knoll population. At Hardin Village, nearly half the children had cavities by age 5. More than 90 percent of adults had them. While it appears from the percentages that Indian Knoll adults suffered a high incidence of cavities (roughly half of the Indian Knoll adults had them) a closer look at the data reveals that there were very few cavities per mouth. Both children and adults had Hardin Village had a higher number of cavities per mouth.

  3. What conclusions could you draw from this data and the information you have been given? The high incidence and number of cavities at Hardin Village reflects a diet rich in carbohydrates and processed foods that tend to cling to teeth.

  4. Write down any other observations you have about this data set. Answers will vary.


Links and Books

Web Sites

NOVA—The Great Inca Rebellion
www.pbs.org/nova/inca/
Presents the producer's story, describes how the Inca created such a vast empire, compares the differences between Inca and conquistador weaponry, and reveals how one bioarcheologist examined Inca finds.

The Empire of the Incas
www.millville.org/Workshops_f/Acker_Inca/inca.htm
Describes several Inca rulers and tells about the language of the Inca.

Inca
www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/prehistory/latinamerica/south/cultures/inca.html Provides a map of Inca territory and geographical and cultural information about the Incas.

The Inca Civilization
lsa.colorado.edu/~lsa/texts/Incas.html
Includes information about Inca territory, society, and the Spanish conquest.


Books

Daily life in the Inca Empire
by Michael Andrew Malpass. Greenwood Press, 1996.
Reconstructs the daily life of Inca people, including those outside of the ruling class.

Empire of the Inca
by Barbara A. Somervill. Facts On File, 2005.
Presents information about the beginning of the empire, the empire at its height, and the final years of Inca rule.

The Incas
by Shirlee P. Newman. Franklin Watts, 1992.
Describes the civilization of the Inca empire that flourished from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century and the present-day lives of the Andean people descended from that empire.


Standards

"The Tale Bones Tell" activity aligns with the following National Science Education Standards (see books.nap.edu/html/nses).

Grades 5-8
History and Nature of Science

Nature of science


Grades 9-12
History and Nature of Science

Nature of scientific knowledge




Classroom Activity Author

An archaeologist, Dr. Wilma Wetterstrom has done fieldwork in Egypt, Syria, Spain, Madagascar, and the United States. Currently an associate of the Harvard University Herbaria, she taught at MIT for nine years and has also taught at Brandeis University and Harvard University Extension School.

Teacher's Guide
Great Inca Rebellion, The
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