Medical Anthropology




Interpretation of a 19th Century Iroquois Indian Medicine (Prayer) Stick.

A mid-to late-19th century prayer stick was researched, documented, and analyzed for its form and function. Animal spirits representations identified in the stick made use of beaver (an idea strongly linked to the 19th century struggling pelt industry), bears, bison and raven, with the latter animal spirit responsible for most of the artifacts carved form and function.   The location of the area this medicine or prayer stick symbolized was a large plains states region with buffalo residing locally.  This stick is possibly of Iroquois origin, although the carvings suggest a focus on the great plains lifestyle.   If this is of New York or Iroquois origin, it is perhaps a western New York prayer object.


Identification of a Native American Sacred Site, probably used by Wappingi Mohegans, ca. 1600 – 1760 for shamanic practices and ceremonies.

An ecologically intact “island” or isolated peririparian/perilacustrine site was identified as an Island community. referred to in 18th century Moravian writings about a Mohegan Christian Indian communal history. This site is referred to as part of the seasonal travels taken by this Moravian-led community during the late 18th century and was no longer in use at the time of the Christian Indian movement led by this Dutchess County Moravian Missionary project. Indicative of the site’s history and originality are natural ecologic settings, which isolated this natural setting from human interactions for much of its history. There is a local oral history of this site which helped to identify its heritage and local historical use, including oral histories retold by the orignal landowners and documentation of this local communal establishment appearing in the Moravian missionary documents, with supporting historical studies of the site’s history found in Pennsylvania Moravian special collections and supported by a documentation of this history in English by a local Marist College expert in this cultural anthropology topic. Much of the story of this Moravian Mission is retold in the nineteenth century religious journal Missions. Phytoecological findings demonstrate the presence of several very important species in local Mohegan ethnobotany history, including the presence of a unique Cornus species and unique Penstemon species with a characteristic short growing season, which is detailed as a Moravian medicine by local famed 18th century female botanist Jane Colden, ca. 1759, and by a later 19th century medical journal article on the same topic. Both of these species are referred to as “island species” due to their rarity in natural settings on the mainland and this characteristic geomorphological setting of their microcommunity related to the region’s glacial history. This site is currently protected by National and State environmental wetlands regulations and cannot be modified or occupied physically or environmentally.

Identification of an Adobe Indian ethnobotanical specimen and possible reasons for its discovery in large quantities an ancient indigenous disposal and/or human waste site. University of New Mexico, Department of Anthropology.

A unique Amaranthus was identified as the source for large amounts of seeds found in indigenous human waste and/or garbage site. This species was identified as serving two or more purposes, principally food (edible seed), colorant/dye and/or medicinal source. This member of Caryophillidae: Amaranthaceae is arguably unique due to its dark colored flower/seed tops, a result of its anthocyanin content. Other distinguishing features include the rich nutrition content of its very small seed and the vermifuge effect of various chemicals found throughout the plant. All three uses have been attributed to this plant as an important Adobe ethnobotanical product. Its rapid growth in human impact areas made it a convenient by-product of land clearing processes related to the establishment of encampments.

The Ethnobotany of Achras sapota.

A monograph on the history, anthropology and natural products history of the various uses of Achras sapota (Chicle), a well-known Mayan-Aztec plant with a unique chemical and recreational (non-hallucinogen or drug related) history. Chapters focused on: Introduction; History; Anthropology; Botany and Plant Physiology (including sections on Plant Morphology, and Latex Chemistry and applications); and Phytomedicine.

Ethnobotanical Review of a Klamath Encampment Site. Ethnobotany Expert, Consultant and Research advisor. Department of Anthropology, Reed College, Portland, OR.

A Klamath Indian archaeological site was evaluated for its local plant ecology and geographic setting. Approximately 75 plant species with well-defined Klamath Indian ethnobotany histories were identified. All potential uses were previously documented in other Klamath studies.