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 Chachapoya mummy from the Laguna Huayabamba  

My dissertation research (The Biological and Social Consequences of Inca Conquest of the Chachapoya Region of Northern Peru, University of New Mexico, 2005) focused on a region in the northern highlands of Peru known as Chachapoyas.  The focus of the research was to quantify the amount of internal genetic differentiation and levels of extra-regional gene flow during the Late Chachapoya Period and describe any changes in intra-regional heterogeneity or extra-regional gene flow following Inca conquest.  Below are links to three .pdf articles that I have published on the Chachapoya material.

Skull from the Laguna Huayabamba
Nystrom KC.  2007. Trepanation in the Chachapoya Region of Northern PerúInternational Journal of Osteoarchaeology 17: 39-51. PDF

Nystrom KC.  2006. Late Chachapoya Population Structure Prior to Inca Conquest.  American Journal of Physical Anthropology.  131(3): 334-342. PDF

Nystrom KC, Goff A, Goff ML.  2005.  Mortuary Behavior Reconstruction through Paleoentomology: A Case Study from Chachapoya, Perú.  International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 15(3): 175-185. PDF


        Back in graduate school I was involved in a project with Jane Buikstra in which we radiographed three individuals from the Early Classic Dynasty (ca. 400 - 600 AD) of Copan: K'inich Yax K'uk' Mo, the founder of the dynasty, and the principal individual recovered from the Motmot tomb, and Margarita.  The goals of the project were to (1) create a radiographic archive and (2) collect cross-sectional geometric data.  The latter were used to examine intra-individual changes in diaphyseal geometric properties following trauma.  Both K'inich Yax K'uk' Mo and the Motmot individual has suffered blunt force trauma (K'inich Yax K'uk' Mo''s right radius is shown below).  We were interested to see how the body adapated to subsquent changes in biomechanical efficiency.

X-ray of the Motmot individual from Copan
Nystrom KC, Buikstra JE, Braunstein EM. 2005.  Radiographic Evaluation of Early Classic Elites from Copan, HondurasInternational Journal of Osteoarchaeology  15(3): 196-207. PDF

Nystrom KC, Buikstra JE. 2005. Trauma Induced Changes in Diaphyseal Cross-Sectional Geometry in Elites from Copan, Honduras.  American Journal of Physical Anthropology 128(4): 791-800. 

Nystrom KC, Braunstein EM, Buikstra JE.  2004.  Field Paleoradiography of Skeletal Material from Early Classic Period of 
Copan, Honduras.  Canadian Association of Radiologists Journal 55(4): 246-253.

X-ray of the right radius of K'inich Yax K'uk Mo


I am currently involved in two projects and I have been able to involve undergraduate students from SUNY New Paltz in different aspects of the research.

Southern Peruvian Coast

        I am involved in a collaborative project with Dr. Gregory Zaro (University of Maine) that is focusing on the intervalley coastline of southern Peru.  The primary goal of this project is to explore the nature of Chiribaya occupation and utilization of the intervalley coast, north of the Osmore Drainage.  Zaro is exploring the nature of human modification of the landscape in regards to agricultural production.  I will be focusing on the analysis of skeletal material once excavation commences.
        As a preliminary investigation during the summer of 2008, Zaro and I collected a series of non-archaeological soil samples from along the intervalley coastline.  Zaro is interested in the role humans may have played in long term environmental change.  For my part, as the use of lead isotopes is one method of reconstructing prehistoric residential mobility, I was interested in examining how anthropogenic lead may contaminate buried human skeletal material.  This was a collaborative project with one of my Anthropology students, Heather Slivko-Bathurst, pictured below collecting and bagging one of the many samples we took during the summer.  Check out an article about Heather's participation in this project in The Observer, an alumni magazine published by SUNY New Paltz.

Heather Slivko-Bathurst collecting soil samples from the southern Peruvian coastline

Newburgh Cemetery Project

         During the Fall 2009 semester I will be completing the final stages of a research project involving human skeletal material recovered from the Broadway School in Newburgh, NY, originally the location of an African-American cemetery that was intermittently used during the early 1800’s.  While the history of the cemetery is still being reconstructed from sketchy historical documents, newspaper articles from the 1870’s indicate that human remains were unearthed during construction of Route 9W and again in the early 1900’s when the Broadway School was originally built.  These remains were presumably reinterred at the Woodlawn Cemetery and the Alms House Cemetery on Snake Hill respectively.  The City of Newburgh, following the guidance of the New York State Historic Preservation Office, committed to the full recovery of any human remains that might be impacted by construction.

        The Newburgh African Cemetery represents a physical manifestation of the African Diaspora which has been called one of the most significant demographic, cultural, and economic events in world history.  It was a key component of British colonial structure and was thus integral to the development of the Americas.  This alone would make the cemetery and its occupants significant as it provides primary evidence on what life was like for Africans during this period in North American history.  More specifically, the cemetery affords both researchers and the living community a chance to explore what life was like for Africans in the Northern States, a facet of history that is little understood.

        In order to address questions pertaining to quality of life data on skeletal and dental indicators of health and demography will be generated.  When compared to other contemporaneous skeletal samples, these data will provide the foundation for discussing the quality of life for Africans in the Hudson Valley during the early to mid-1800’s.

Undergraduate Student Research

Victoria Nichols and Jade Chin cleaning skeletons.I have a number of students working on different aspects of this project: 

(1) Victoria Nichols (Anthropology) will be recording data on aspects of dental health, including caries and linear enamel hypoplasias.

(2) Heather Slivko-Bathurst (Anthropology) is synthesizing previously published literature dealing with fertility and mortality among African-American populations from the time period.

(3) Greg Raymond (History) is researching the state of public health care in the region during the early 1800's.

(4) Ashley Garcia (Anthropology) is calculating stature which serves as a proxy for the overall of a population.

(5) Melanie Brasor, a Master's student from SUNY Albany, is collecting data on juvenile dental and skeletal pathologies.

(6) Jade Chin (Anthropology) is tabulating data on dental caries from a large skeletal samples excavated from the site of the Albany Almshouse,  which served the needs of the region's poor between the early 19th and 20th centuries.