Study: Cherokee's Struggles Visible in Their Skulls
Researchers review changes in skulls' measurements during stressful times
By Kate Seamons, Newser Staff
Posted Apr 17, 2014 8:20 AM CDT
Finley's 1827 map of Tennessee.   (Wikimedia Commons)

(Newser) – It turns out the Trail of Tears didn't just affect the Cherokee people's spirits. A new study by North Carolina State University and University of Tennessee researchers has found that their struggles actually reshaped their skulls. The research was reliant on research done long before the present day, by Franz Boas, who in the late 19th century measured many Native Americans' cranial length and breadth, including those of eastern and western bands of Cherokee. The researchers set out to organize and analyze that data: They reviewed only those measurements belonging to adults, and arranged them by birth year, with the span of time running from 1783 to 1874. As an NCSU press release explains, in using that year of birth, researchers were able to flag "stressors" the individual might have encountered: 1838's Trail of Tears, warfare between tribes, outbreaks of disease, and the Civil War.

Their conclusion, as published in the Annals of Human Biology: Head length (that is, front-to-back measurement of the skull) shortened over time among both bands. Among the eastern band of Cherokee there was a particularly aggressive decline for females in the late 1830s, which syncs with the timing of the Trail of Tears; the researchers note the eastern band tried to avoid evacuation by heading into the Smoky Mountains. As far as breadth, only the western band showed a lessening, in the early 1860s as the Civil War set in. Says a co-author, "When times are tough, people have less access to adequate nutrition and are at greater risk of disease. This study demonstrates the impact that those difficult times had on the physical growth of the Cherokee people."

More From Newser
My Take on This Story
To report an error on this story,
notify our editors.
Study: Cherokee's Struggles Visible in Their Skulls is...
2%
54%
27%
3%
2%
12%
Show results without voting
You Might Like
Comments
Showing 3 of 124 comments
iq145
Apr 17, 2014 7:57 PM CDT
i knew a guy once who stressed me, so i reshaped his skull...
Ezekiel 25:17
Apr 17, 2014 5:23 PM CDT
I got interested in the history of my area when I researched the land deed to my lake property. The deed was granted by the Choctaw Nation when they were a great people of the Little Dixie region of Oklahoma. They actually got the land from the Caddoan Mississippi people. If you are a tribe member in Oklahoma and you are not Caddoan, you are what the government calls an immigrant tribe. That's because no tribe in Oklahoma is native to Oklahoma except the Caddos. So when Andrew Jackson started his war on the tribes, he moved most of them west of the Mississippii. He then squeeze them further into Oklahoma in allotments. The Choctaws set up a capitol, counties, and governments. My cabin is technically in Pittsburg County but in Choctaw terms, its in Tobusky County, the town of Bucklucksy. The Tobusky county courthouse is about 8 miles away next to the McAlester family mansion, now a museum. My deed says it went from Choctaws, to Masonic Lodge of Oklahoma, then to a Mason(Iluminati), then he sold it to me. As for our state capitol city, the Seminoles and Creeks were moved in the the Caddo's property. They had Black slaves. They let the slaves go after the civil war and they were the first non-indian settlers of Oklahoma City. They were also the first non-indian immigrants allowed by the government. All white immigrants were forcibly removed by the US Army. How's that? A few of their homes are still standing.
Randy Owens
Apr 17, 2014 3:36 PM CDT
My late grandfather was a Cherokee and taught me about the "Trail of Tears" back when I was just a boy. He called it America's Holocaust because back then the government was hopping the Five Civilized Tribes, (Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole) would all die on the way to Oklahoma and Arkansas. Why else would the government in the dead of winter round them up and heard them like cattle without adequate food and supplies. At Tahlequah stands a church the Cherokees carried there board by board and re-built.