Bioarchaeology, Ancient Maya, Paleodiet, Paleopathology, inequality
Current Research Projects:
In my bioarchaeological research on the ancient Maya of Central America, I study how cultural behaviors and health each leave their mark on the human skeleton, emphasizing: 1) the reconstruction of prehistoric diets and mobility through stable isotopic analyses of bones and teeth, and 2) the evaluation of health status using pathological lesions and signs of growth arrest during childhood.
In recent years, I have explored distinctions in diet and health among social groups and through time at the ancient Maya city of Tikal, Guatemala. I document childhood diets by measuring carbon stable isotope ratios of tooth enamel and I identify the skeletons of foreign migrants using strontium and oxygen isotope ratios, which vary with geological substrates and rainwater composition, respectively. My strontium isotope work at Tikal has refuted the epigraphic identification of one of TikalÕs Early Classic rulers as a foreign child, and demonstrates that a sizeable proportion of Tikal skeletons are individuals who spent their childhoods elsewhere.
Since my early student years, I have been interested in teeth as time capsules of human developmental history. I have studied enamel hypoplasias and Wilson bands in tooth enamel from a variety of archaeological sites. Tooth enamel records the developmental history of a child in its crystalline structure, both in terms of morphology and chemistry. My newest research direction uses this microstructural anatomy to estimate deciduous tooth crown completion times.
Please follow this link for information about the Tooth Fairy Dental Development Project.
ANTH 225 Biological Anthropology
ANTH 425 Human Osteology
ANTH 423 Bioarchaeology
ANTH 625 Paleopathology
ANTH 627 Paleonutrition
ANTH 632 Archaeology of Death
ANTH 638 Proposal Writing in Anthropology
ANTH 689 Dental Anthropology
Current Graduate Students:
Alex Canterbury, Kristin Hoffmeister, Willa Trask
Selected and Recent Publications:
2014 Fenner, J. and L.E. Wright. Focus: Revisiting the Strontium Contribution of Sea Salt in the Human Diet. Journal of Archaeological Science 44(2014): 99-103.
2013 Wright, L.E. Examining childhood diets at Kaminaljuyu, Guatemala, through stable isotopic analysis of enamel microsamples. Archaeometry 55(1): 113-133.
2012 Wright, L.E. Immigration to Tikal, Guatemala: Evidence from stable strontium and oxygen isotopes. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 31: 334-352.
2011 Wright, L.E. Bilateral talipes equinovarus from Tikal, Guatemala. International Journal of Paleopathology 1(1): 55-62.
2010 Wright, L.E., J.A. Valdés, J.H. Burton, T.D. Price, and H.P. Schwarcz. The children of Kaminaljuyu: Isotopic insight into diet and long distance interaction in Mesoamerica. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 29(2): 155-178.
2006 Wright, L.E. Diet, Health and Status among the Pasión Maya: A Reappraisal of the Collapse. Vanderbilt Institute of Mesoamerican Archaeology Series, Volume 2, Vanderbilt University Press, Nashville.
2005 Wright, L.E. Identifying immigrants to Tikal, Guatemala: Defining local variability in strontium isotope ratios of human tooth enamel. Journal of Archaeological Science 32(4): 555-566.
2003 Wright, L.E., and M.A. Vásquez. Estimating long bone length from fragmentary remains: forensic standards from Guatemala. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 120(3): 233-251.