Della Collins Cook
Professor, Anthropology Department
Adjunct Professor, Anthropology School of Liberal Arts, IUPUI
Affiliate Faculty, William R. Adams Zooarchaeology Lab
Director, Osteology and Paleopathology Lab
- Ph.D., University of Chicago (1976)
- M.A., University of Chicago (1971)
- A.B., Cornell University (1969)
Geographical Areas of Specialization: Americas, Aegean
Topical Interests: Human osteology, Paleopathology, Mortuary practices, Demography
My work in skeletal biology applies insights drawn from health studies of modern humans to the study of ancient peoples. I am particularly interested in the infectious diseases that affect the skeleton and in developmental defects in the teeth. I began working in 1970 on the relationship between subsistence and health by comparing limb bone lengths, and by inference, stature, in children from two prehistoric Midwestern cemetery sites that pre-dated and post-dated the beginning of heavy dependence on maize. Was the hunting and gathering way of life the original good life, as it is often portrayed? My research suggests that a marked deterioration in health attends the adoption of agriculture, but that at least some agricultural groups suffered few health consequences after the use of maize was established. Paleopathology of Woodland and Mississippian Indians in the Midwest continues to be the focus of my research. My most recent work with several colleagues applies ancient DNA technology to understanding the epidemiology of tuberculosis among Mississippian maize farmers.
Early in my career I characterized the diseases that leave evidence on bone according to their epidemiological characteristics, and applied the models that resulted to the evidence for disease in prehistoric populations. A number of interesting observations followed. My work suggested that non-venereal syphilis was endemic in the ancient Midwest. More recently I have explored evidence for congenital transmission of treponemal disease in later prehistory in the Americas as well as in slave populations from Barbados. Mary Lucas Powell and I have published an edited volume. My work on the vertebrae of Australopithecus afarensis showed that vertebral lesions most resemble Scheuermann's disease, a condition that follows strenuous athletic activity in adolescents. Its presence in australopithecines suggests that strenuous climbing or lifting was part of their behavioral repertoire. Research in collaboration with J.E. Buikstra in the 1980s suggested that tuberculosis, or a tuberculosis-like disease, appeared on the New World only after there were population aggregates of tens of thousands of people. Mark Braun, Susan Pfeiffer and I were able to confirm this diagnosis using ancient DNA in 1998.
Since 1993 I have participated in Prof. Anne Pyburn's excavation at Chau Hiix, Belize. We have a field school there every other spring semester, allowing my students to gain experience in excavating burials. We have begun to publish the archaeology and physical anthropology of this unusual ancient Maya population. I am interested in mortuary practices, and have written on funerary masks and house floor burials in Midwestern sites. Cheryl Munson and I are currently working on a project on artifacts made from human bones from Mississippian sites in the Ohio Valley, and I am very interested in using physical anthropology to understand aspects of ancient beliefs and behaviors.
2012 Neglected Ancestors: Robert Wilson Shufeldt, M.D., 1850-1934. Global History of Paleopathology. Oxford University Press. J.E. Buikstra and C.A. Roberts, eds.
2012 Herbert Upham Williams: Physician Paleopathologist. Global History of Paleopathology. Oxford University Press. J.E. Buikstra and C.A. Roberts, eds.
2012 Paleopathology in the American Midcontinent. Global History of Paleopathology. Oxford University Press. J.E. Buikstra and C.A. Roberts, eds.
2012 Roy L. Moodie: Comparative Perspectives on Ancient Disease. Global History of Paleopathology. Oxford University Press. J.E. Buikstra and C.A. Roberts, eds.
2012 Cemitério dos Pretos Novos: questões da escravidão revisitadas. Ciencia Hoje 49 (219--April):25-27. With Sheila Mendonça de Souza, Murilo Quintans Bastos, Ricardo Ventura Santos.
2012 Treponematosis: Past, Present and Future. With Mary Lucas Powell. In: A Companion to Paleopathology, Anne L. Grauer, ed. Blackwell.
2012 Future of Paleopathology. With Mary Lucas Powell. In: A Companion to Paleopathology, Anne L. Grauer, ed. Blackwell.
2011 Book Review: Arch Lake Woman: Physical Anthropology and Geoarchaeology. Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology 31(1):153-155.
2011 The 'African Queen', a Portuguese Mystery. In: The Bioarchaeology of Individuals. Ann Lucy Stodder & Ann M. Palkovich, Editors, University Press of Florida. With Mary Lucas Powell, Maia M. Langley, Jennifer Raff, Susan D. Spencer and Frederika Kaestle.
2011 As the worm turns: an enigmatic calcified object as pseudopathology. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology (wileyonlinelibrary.com) DOI: 10.1002/oa.1302. With Randy R. Patrick.
2011 Brief communication: conjoined twins at Angel Mounds? An ancient DNA perspective. American Journal of Physical Anthropology Aug 10. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.21557. [Epub ahead of print]. With Charla Marshall, Patricia A. Tench and Frederika A. Kaestle.
2011 Dentes intencionalmente modificados e etnicidade em cemitérios do Brasil Colônia e Imperio. Revista do Museu de Arqueologic e Etnologia, São Paulo, 21:315-334. With Andersen Liryo and Sheila Mendonça de Souza.
2010 Da África ao Cemitério dos Pretos Novos, Rio de Janeiro: un estudo sobre as origens de escravos a partir da anályse de isotopes de estrôncio no esmalte dentário. Revista de Arqueologia 24:68-97. With Murilo Q.R. Bastos, Sheila M.F. Mendonça de Souza, Ricardo Ventura Santos, Claudia Rodrigues-Carvalho and Roberto Ventura Santos.
2009 Hierarchies and heterarchies of food consumption: stable isotopic evidence from Chau Hiix and the Northern Belize region. Latin American Antiquity 20(1):15-36. With Jessica Z. Metcalfe, Christine D. White, Fred J. Longstaffe, and Gabriel Wrobel.
2008 In Memoriam: Patrick David Horne. Paleopathology Newsletter No. 143:9-11. With Mary Lucas Powell.
2008 Book review: McCafferty: Native American Place-Names in Indiana. Journal of Folklore Research. http://www.indiana.edu/~jofr/review.php?id=695
2008 Thermally Induced Changes in Stable Carbon- and Nitrogen-isotope Ratios of Charred Bones. In: The Analysis of Burned Human Remains. Christopher W. Schmidt and Steven A. Symes, eds. Academic: Amsterdam. Pp. 95-108. With Mark R. Schurr and Robert G. Hayes.
2007 Incidence of trachoma in two prehistoric Lower Illinois River Valley populations. Paleopathology Newsletter (138):9-12. With Julie Euber and Susan Dale Spencer.
2007 Maize and Mississippians in the Midwest: Twenty Years Later. In: Ancient Health: Skeletal Indicators of Agriculture and Economic Intensification. Mark Nathan Cohen and Gillian Crane-Kramer, eds. University Press of Florida. Pp. 10-19.
2006 Invisible Hands: Women in Bioarchaeology. In: Bioarchaeology: The Contextual Study of Human Remains. Jane E. Buikstra and Lane A Beck, eds. Elsevier: Amsterdam. Pp. 131-193. With M. L. Powell, J. E. Buikstra, G.Bogdan, M. M. Castro, P. D. Horne, D. R. Hunt, R. T. Koritzer, S. Ferraz Mendonca de Souza, M. K. Sanford, L. Saunders, G. Aparecida Malerba Sene, L. Sullivan, and J. J. Swetnam.
2006 The evolution of American paleopathology. In: Bioarchaeology: The Contextual Study of Human Remains. Jane E. Buikstra and Lane A Beck, eds. Elsevier: Amsterdam. Pp. 281-322. With Mary Lucas Powell.
2006 The Old Physical Anthropology and the New World: a look at the accomplishments of an antiquated paradigm. In: Bioarchaeology: The Contextual Study of Human Remains. Jane E. Buikstra and Lane A Beck, eds. Elsevier: Amsterdam. Pp. 27-72.
2006 Tuberculosis in the New World: a study of ribs from the Schild Mississippian population, West-Central Illinois. Memorias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz Vol. 101 (Suppl. II ):25-27. With J. Raff and F. Kaestle
2006 Introduction. Memorias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz Vol. 101 (Suppl. II):5-7. With M.L. Powell.
2006 Joe Gay Mound Group, Crematory A excavations. In: Illinois Hopewell and Late Woodland Mounds: The Excavations of Gregory Perino. Kenneth Farnsworth, ed., ITARP Studies in Archaeology No. 4. Pp. 498-500. University of Illinois Press: Urbana. With A. Palkovich
2006 Bioanthropology bibliography: studies of human remains and mortuary practices that use Perino mound-excavation data. In: Illinois Hopewell and Late Woodland Mounds: The Excavations of Gregory Perino. Kenneth Farnsworth, ed., ITARP Studies in Archaeology No. 4. Pp. 125-136. University of Illinois Press.