My research examines health and disease in prehistoric populations through their skeletal remains. I am specifically interested in understanding prehistoric human adaptations in desert ecosystems and the role local resources play in the adoption of agriculture and their impact on health. Current projects involve the excavation and analysis of the earliest farmers in the Sonoran Desert and of incipient agriculturalists in the Atacama Desert, along the northern coast of Chile.
The development and rapid spread of agriculture among prehistoric human populations throughout the globe catapulted human cultural evolution far beyond those accomplishments of the previous four million years of biological evolution. The transition from a mobile food foraging lifestyle to large permanent settlements had serious effects on the health of human beings. Increased population densities and contact with waste fostered the spread of bacterial and viral diseases. Close contact with domesticated animals led to the development of zoonoses in humans such as anthrax and tuberculosis. A decrease in dietary breadth and the limited nutrition of domesticated cultigens led to nutritional deficiencies among young and old. In addition, the focused consumption of highly processed carbohydrates led to progressive deteriorations in dental health, resulting in more cavities and tooth loss among agricultural groups. In order to understand the origin and direction of human diseases (past and present), it is important to frame them in terms of their dynamic relationship between human evolutionary biology, human behaviors, and environment.
2012 Watson JT, Arriaza B. La Salud Bucal y la Transición Hacia la Agricultura en el Norte de Chile. In: Muñoz I. (ed.), Los Túmulos Funerarios, 1000 Años de Historia en los Valles de Arica. Universidad de Tarapacá, Arica, Chile. [in press].
2012 Watson JT, Arriaza B, Standen V, Muñoz Ovalle I. Occlusal Dental Wear and the Formative Transition Along the Northern Chilean Coast. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology [in press] DOI: 10.1002/oa.1247
2011 Byrd R, Watson JT, Fish P, Fish S. Architecture and the Afterlife: A Spatial Analysis of Mortuary Patterns at University Indian Ruin. Journal of Arizona Archaeology 2(1). [in press]
2011 McLaurin BT, Elliott AC, Watson JT, Canchola MEV. Quaternary Stratigraphy of the La Playa Archaeological Site (SON F:10:3), Northern Sonora, Mexico. In: McLaurin BT, Elliott AC, Torres N. (eds.), Reconstructing Human-Landscape Interactions – Volume 1.Springer Briefs in Earth System Sciences. Springer, New York. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-23759-1_2.
2011 Elliott AC, McLaurin BT, Watson JT, Canchola MEV. Genesis of an Artifact Layer-Natural and Cultural Processes at the La Playa Archaeological Site, Sonora, Mexico. In: McLaurin BT, Elliott AC, Torres N. (eds.), Reconstructing Human-Landscape Interactions – Volume 1.Springer Briefs in Earth System Sciences. Springer, New York. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-23759-1_3.
2011 Fish S, Fish P, Christopherson G, Pitezel T, Watson JT. Two Villages on Tumamoc Hill. Journal of Arizona Archaeology 1(2):185-196.
2010 Watson JT, Muñoz Ovalle I, Arriaza B. Formative Adaptations, Diet, and Oral Health in the Azapa Valley of Northwest Chile. Latin American Antiquity 21(4):423-439.
2010 Watson JT. The Introduction of Agriculture and the Foundation of Biological Variation in the Southern Southwest. In: Auerbach B. (ed.), Center for Archaeological Investigations: Archaeological and Biological Variation in the New World. Occasional Papers No. 36. Southern Illinois University Press: Carbondale, Illinois, pp. 135-171.
2010 Watson JT, Fields M, Martin DL. The Introduction of Agriculture and Its Effect on Women’s Oral Health. American Journal of Human Biology 22(1):92-102.
2010 Harry KG, Watson JT. The Archaeology of Pueblo Grande de Nevada: Past and Current Research within Nevada’s “Lost City”. Kiva 75(4):403-424.
2009 Fields M, Herschaft EE, Martin DL, Watson JT. Sex and the Agricultural Transition: Dental Health of Early Farming Females. Journal of Dentistry and Oral Hygiene 1(4):042-051.
2008 Watson JT. Prehistoric Dental Disease and the Dietary Shift from Cactus to Cultigens in Northwest Mexico. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 18:202-212.
2008 Watson JT. Changes in Food Processing and Occlusal Dental Wear during the Early Agricultural Period in Northwest Mexico. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 135(1):92-99.
2008 Watson JT. Animal Resource Exploitation among the Virgin River Puebloans in the American Southwest. Journal of Field Archaeology 33(4):1-11.
2006 Benyshek DC, Watson JT. Exploring the Thrifty Genotype’s Food Shortage Assumptions: A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Ethnographic Accounts of Food Security Among Foraging and Agricultural Societies. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 131(1):120-126.
ANTH 468/568 Human Osteology
ANTH 495/595 Special Topics in Arch: Seminar in Bioarchaeology
ANTH 160A1 Patterns in Prehistory
Areas of Study:
Bioarchaeology, dental anthropology, paleopathology, field archaeology.
Human diet, health, and disease in prehistory, origins of agriculture, arid land adaptations.
Southwest United States & northwest Mexico, Mesoamerica, northern Chile.