Archaeology & Palaeoanthropology, University of New England
Friday 22, Park Concourse
New Electron Spin Resonance age estimates indicate that Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans (AMH) from Near Eastern sites were largely contemporaneous. Different interpretations have been proposed as to whether these two species interact or compete between each other in the Levantine region. In this study tooth wear patterns of Neanderthals and AMH from Middle Paleolithic sites of Israel and Northern Iraq are analyzed, based on the observation of specific occlusal contact areas (para-facets) that have been previously described in the dentition of historic and modern hunter-gatherers. The Occlusal Fingerprint Analysis (OFA) method is applied here to virtually reconstruct the jaw movements responsible for the creation of the occlusal wear areas. The results exclude the possibility that para-facets were created by a normal chewing cycle, suggesting, as seen in a previous study, that the formation of these areas is related to para-masticatory activities. Additionally, the results also indicate strong similarity in tooth wear patterns between Near Eastern Neanderthals and AMH. Because these two groups are geographically close and broadly contemporaneous, and because tooth wear is related to cultural factors, this result is interpreted as evidence of cultural interactions between them. Such a scenario is compatible with the analysis of the Neanderthal genome, where it has been suggested that gene flow occurred between Neanderthals and AMH, probably in the Middle East, before 100,000 years ago.