The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Methodological advances in TCA age-estimation technique


1UMR 5199, CNRS, 2Anthropology, CEPN, 3Anthropology, Université de Lille, 4Anthropology, University of Winnipeg, 5UPR 2147, CNRS

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The increase use of the Teeth Cementum Annulations (TCA) technique for individual age estimation in archaeology has recently been challenged on issues pertaining to the identification of the actual cementum lines, and the reduction of intra/inters observer errors. In order to resolve these matters, explicit “expert” choices for rejection or inclusion of dubious annulations need to be rigorously described by the original author of the method.

Our study is thus centered on the description and the visual discrimination of cementum pictures. Main biological (pathologies) and technical (counting protocol) factors responsible for tooth cementum variance are described and a set of 8 teaching slides is presented to clarify previously ambiguous features. Additionally, new reference tests confirm the high correlation (r ≈ 0.85-0.9) with true chronological age.

We systematically tested correlations between cementum rings and true age along the root’s longitudinal axis to identify and describe the best possible cutting location, the middle third part, which has never been formally tested. Pathological (infections) and physiological (resorption) aspects affecting cementum deposition are also explored to explain counting variance between various loci.

Considering that TCA is the only direct, reliable, method for age estimation for adults which is not subjected to statistical vagaries, and since its correlation with true chronological age is very high, all issues affecting the method should be fully addressed before any premature dismissal.

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