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Their health was comparable to pre-Columbian Indian populations threatened with extinction.
Many of the healthiest groups included in the index lived along the coast.
According to some archeologists, the urban revolution began long before Europeans settled the Americas.
The researchers share their findings on the co-evolution of humans and disease in (Cambridge University Press, 2002).
Steckel edited the book with Jerome Rose, a professor of anthropology at the University of Arkansas.
On the other hand, plantation slaves buried in a South Carolina site ranked third to last on the health index.
While its not surprising that slaves ranked lowest among the African-American sites, it is remarkable that the slaves were so near the bottom in overall rankings, Steckel said.
But equestrian nomads of the 19th century were also among the healthiest groups in the study.