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


Dental flurosis in ancient Cuma, Italy

MARIELVA TORINO1, STEPHAN NAJI2, PRISCILLA MUNZI3 and JEAN-PIERRE BRUN3.

1Universita di Napoli, Anthropology, 2CNRS, UMR 5199, 3Centre Jean Bérard, Ecole Française de Rome

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Recent excavation in Cuma (South Italy) revealed the existence of a large roman necropolis dated from 200BC to AD 200. Paleopathological analyses evidenced a rate of caries inferior to 3% for all teeth present which is very low for roman population (8-12% on average) and for modern populations. In addition, the rate of linear enamel hypoplasia (>65% of individuals) is very high. Finally, one of the individuals exhibits significantly whiter teeth, which can be attributed, among other things, to dental fluorosis.

Even though several causes can generated such an association, studies in neighboring contemporary cemeteries, notably in Herculanum, have identified similar patterns securely diagnosed as dental fluorosis through direct SEM analyses.

Since, fluorine is naturally present in local underground water sources and contributes even today to low caries rates in Italian populations, we decided to test this hypothesis. We sampled 3 identified archaic water wells, 2 on-site and one just outside the necropolis, for fluorine content. Fluor levels ranged from 3mg/L to over 10mg/L which is 3 to 10 times higher than observed levels outside the site (≈ 1mg/L).

Altogether, this evidence suggests the presence of endemic dental fluorosis and expands the known geographic occurrence of such patterns in Southern Italy.

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