Mark C. Griffin
Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology
San Francisco State University

Mortui vivos docent

Some of my recent publications

Griffin, Mark C. 2018. “The end of prehistory in the land of Coosa: Oral health in a Late Mississippian village”. , pp. 69-91.

Building on the 1991 publication What Mean These Bones? Studies in Southeastern Bioarchaeology, this new edited collection from Shannon Chappell Hodge and Kristrina A. Shuler marks steady advances over the past three decades in the theory, methodology, and purpose of bioarchaeology in the southeastern United States and across the discipline. With a geographic scope that ranges from Louisiana to South Carolina and a temporal span from early prehistory through the nineteenth century, the coverage aims to be holistic. Bioarchaeology of the American Southeast: Approaches to Bridging Health and Identity in the Past focuses on the fundamentals of archaeology—figuring out who lived at an archaeological site, when they lived there, what they did, and how they lived their lives. This builds the framework that allows archaeologists to answer deeper questions, such as questions of identity, ethnicity, gender and the status of women, social status, class, power and exploitation, migration, and conflict.

Griffin, Mark C. 2014. Biocultural implications of oral pathology in an ancient central California population. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 154:171-188.

This study examines three interrelated processes of the oral cavity: dental wear, dental caries, and periodontal disease.  The pathological processes examined here all share the common primary etiological agents of facultative pathogenic bacteria proliferation in the oral biofilm.  Integration of the current etiological explanations for infections of the oral cavity, information from the ethnographic record pertaining to subsistence and activity patterns in Native Californian populations, and statistical analysis of specific disease and wear patterns leads to a novel explanation for the observed pattern of oral pathology in this population sample.  Specifically, the introduction of antibacterial compounds through dietary items and nonalimentary tooth use is suggested as the most likely explanation for the unusually low prevalence of dental caries and periodontal disease.

Griffin MC, Snyder J, Balabuszko R, Entriken K, Wiberg R. 2010. Demography, health, and regional biodistance. In: Wiberg R, editor. Archaeological investigations at CA-CCO-18/548: Final report for the Vineyards at Marsh Creek Project, Contra Costa County, California. San Francisco: Holman and Associates Archaeological Consultants p 355-408.

The result of a seven-year multidisciplinary research project involving more than thirty scientists from ten universities and laboratories.  The Vineyards site (4CCO18/548) represents a pivotal occupation and burial site from the Middle Archaic period of Central California. Preliminary analysis of material from the site indicates a relatively ancient prehistoric multi-use site. The chronological data that have been ascertained thus far indicate activities at the site as early as 7550 BC with the most intense habitation between 4350 and 550 BC. The size of the skeletal sample and the age of the site make this a very important site in California prehistory.

Larsen, Clark Spencer, Dale L. Hutchinson, Christopher M. Stojanowski, Matthew A. Williamson, Mark C. Griffin, Scott W. Simpson, Christopher B. Ruff, Margaret J. Schoeninger, Lynette Norr, and Mark F. Teaford, Elizabeth Monahan Driscoll, Christopher W. Schmidt, and Tiffiny A. Tung. 2007. “Health and Lifestyle in Georgia and Florida: Agricultural Origins and Intensification in Regional Perspective,” pp. 20-34.

Twenty years ago Mark Nathan Cohen coedited a collection of essays that set a new standard in using paleopathology to identify trends in health associated with changes in prehistoric technology, economy, demography, and political centralization. "Ancient Health "expands and celebrates that work. Confirming earlier conclusions that human health declined after the adoption of farming and the rise of civilization, this book greatly enlarges the geographical range of paleopathological studies by including new work from both established and up-and-coming scholars. Moving beyond the western hemisphere and western Eurasia, this collection involves studies from Chile, Peru, Mexico, the United States, Denmark, Britain, Portugal, South Africa, Israel, India, Vietnam, Thailand, China, and Mongolia. Adding great significance to this volume, the author discusses and successfully rebuts the arguments of the "osteological paradox" that long have challenged work in the area of quantitative paleopathology, demonstrating that the "paradox" has far less meaning than its proponents argue.

Larsen, C.S., A.W. Crosby, M.C. Griffin, D.L. Hutchinson, C.B. Ruff, K.F. Russell, M.J. Schoeninger, L.E. Sering, S.W. Simpson, J.L. Takács, and M.F. Teaford. 2002. "A biohistory of health and behavior in the Georgia Bight: The agricultural transition and the impact of European contact," pp. 406-439.

For the same reasons that explorers of the early twentieth century strove to reach the poles, and their modern counterparts journey to outer space, most people want to visualize the contours of the human experience - the peaks of adaptive success that led to the expansion of civilization, and the troughs in which human presence ebbed. The Backbone of History defines the emerging field of macrobioarchaeology by gathering skeletal evidence on seven basic indicators of health to assess chronic conditions that affected individuals who lived in the Western Hemisphere from 5000 BC to the late nineteenth century. Signs of biological stress in childhood and of degeneration in joints and in teeth increased in the several millennia before the arrival of Columbus as populations moved into less healthy ecological environments. Thus, pre-Colombian Native Americans were among the healthiest and the least healthy groups to live in the Western Hemisphere before the twentieth century.

Griffin, Mark C., Patricia M. Lambert, and Elizabeth Monahan Driscoll. 2001. "Biological relationships and population history of native peoples in Spanish Florida and the American Southeast," pp. 226-273.

These important essays address the biological consequences of the arrival of Europeans in the New World and on the lifeways of native populations following contact in the late 16th century. Moving away from monocausal explanations of population change, they maintain that disease should be viewed as only a facet of a complex problem and that issues relating to diet, nutrition, activity, the work environment, and social and political change are equally important.


other publications

Griffin, Mark C. 1989. Dental Variation of Native Populations from Northern Spanish Florida. M.A. Thesis, Department of Anthropology, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois.

Griffin, Mark C. 1993. Morphological Variation of the Late Precontact and Contact Period Guale. Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana.

Griffin, Mark C., Kathryn Entriken, Julie Hodel, and Theresia C. Weston. 2006. Osteological analysis of the human skeletal remains from the Filoli Site, San Mateo County, California (CA-SMA-125). Society for California Archaeology Newsletter 40(1):32-35.

Larsen, Clark Spencer, Mark C. Griffin, Dale L. Hutchinson, Vivian E. Noble, Lynette Norr, Robert F. Pastor, Christopher B. Ruff, Katherine F. Russell, Margaret J. Schoeninger, Michael Schultz, Scott W. Simpson, and Mark F. Teaford. 2001. Frontiers of Contact: Bioarchaeology of Spanish Florida. Journal of World Prehistory 15(1):69-123.

Larsen, Clark Spencer, Christopher B. Ruff, and Mark C. Griffin. 1996. "Implications of changing biomechanical and nutritional environments for activity and lifeway in the eastern Spanish borderlands," in Bioarchaeology of Native American Adaptation in the Spanish Borderlands. Edited by Brenda J. Baker and Lisa L. Kealhofer, pp. 95-125. Gainesville, Florida: University of Florida Press.

Larsen, Clark Spencer, Rebecca Shavit, and Mark C. Griffin. 1991. "Dental caries evidence for dietary change: An archaeological context," in Advances in Dental Anthropology. Edited by Marc A. Kelley and Clark Spencer Larsen, pp. 179-202. New York: Alan R. Liss, Inc.







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