Pellagra Mortality in the Historic Mississippi State Asylum: A Comparison of Skeletal Data and Institutional Records


Zuckerman, Molly K.

Committee Member

Herrmann, Nicholas P.

Committee Member

Miller, Darcy Shane

Committee Member

Copeland, Toni J.

Date of Degree


Original embargo terms

Visible to MSU only for 3 years

Document Type

Graduate Thesis - Open Access


Applied Anthropology

Degree Name

Master of Arts


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures


Pellagra, a nutritional disease with no known diagnostic skeletal indicators, affected patients in the Mississippi State Insane Asylum (MSA) between 1909 and 1936. The current study employed a sample of the MSA’s death-by-discharge records (N=3445) and a skeletal sample (N=19) from the MSA cemetery to test whether co-occurring alveolar bone loss and reduced bone remodeling in the skeletons can be associated with pellagra mortality in the records. Results of the study were inconclusive as to whether the co-occurring markers are associated with pellagra, but suggest that poor dietary conditions within the MSA, conditions prior to institutionalization, and age, sex, and duration in the asylum affected patients’ pellagra mortality outcomes. Future studies should employ larger skeletal samples to better understand pellagra’s effect on the skeleton. This study and the results of future studies may aid in relief efforts for refugee populations, who are at a heightened risk of developing pellagra.




bone histology||historic bioarchaeology||pellagra||historic asylums

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