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

Dental Modification in a Prehistoric Chamorro Population from Tumon Bay, Guam


Department of Anthropology, University of Florida

Thursday All day, Plaza Level Add to calendar

Dental modification is found in various populations around the world; however, it is rare in the Mariana Islands. A Chamorro population from Guam yielded a large number of individuals that span the island’s two prehistoric time periods, the Pre-Latte and Latte, allowing for a diachronic study, which due to poor preservation and small samples, was not previously possible in Guam.

The Pre-Latte population (n = 104) is identifiable by a relative absence of betelnut staining which is seen in only 5% of the population. Additionally, dental incising is rare and seen in one individual. The Pre-Latte dentition displays abrasion on the labial surface of the maxillary dentition in 48% of the population and is not sex specific.

More than half, 64%, of the Latte individuals (n = 111) exhibit betelnut staining. Dental filing occurs in 6% of the population, and while rare, appears in various forms including: cross-hatched, parallel vertical lines, diamond pattern, and trapezoid pattern. Dental abrasion is only found in two individuals.

Analysis of these populations shows obvious cultural changes that occur over time. The Pre-Latte population can be characterized as one in which a repetitive task-related pattern creates labial abrasion. This activity is mostly abandoned in the Latte Period, where dental incising combined with betelnut chewing is dominant. Such differences in the dentition demonstrates a shift in behavioral patterns over time and may also be useful in delegating skeletal elements to the appropriate time period when stratigraphic information is not available or lost.

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