Erin L. Snape

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Publication Date



The transition from a hunting and gathering lifestyle to one based in agriculture may have been the most crucial development made by past peoples, transforming not only diet, but social structure, mobility, and resource use. I present human skeletal evidence illustrating the consequences of agriculture on human health using case studies from prehistoric Mesoamerica, the American southwest, and regions in Asia. Such evidence has indicated that intensification of maize agriculture in the New World correlates with increased infant mortality rate, dental caries, iron-deficiency anemia, and an overall decline in general health while these health problems have little to no correlation to early intensification of rice agriculture in Asia. This is likely due to the decreased cariogenic nature of rice and its greater nutritional value compared to maize. Other possible causes include processing differences and greater dietary variety in Asia.