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

Dental trait comparisons between Holocene Khoesan and Middle Stone Age populations in southern Africa


Archaeology, University of Cape Town

Friday 103, Plaza Level Add to calendar

Dental research on the Khoesan, a hunter-gatherer population from southern Africa, has led to the development of a comprehensive Khoesan dental map, as well as better temporal understanding of dental variation during the southern African Holocene. However, although previous studies of crania have suggested a degree of morphological continuity between these Holocene hunter-gatherers and earlier Middle Stone Age (MSA) people, such comparisons have not been made for the teeth. Here, we compare metric and non-metric dental trait variation between Holocene Khoesan and MSA specimens from southern Africa. Khoesan dental data were collected from >400 archaeological samples and compared to Middle Stone Age teeth from Cave of Hearths, Border Cave, Hoetjiespunt, Hofmeyr and Klasies River Mouth.

Results demonstrate expected tooth size differences between the MSA and recent hunter-gatherers. Although only limited non-metric evaluations could be conducted on MSA teeth due to preservation/wear, similar dental traits were identified (often at high frequency) in both datasets, including the lower M2 Y-groove pattern, lower M1 cusp 7, 2-rooted lower M2 and 3-rooted upper M2. These data support previous work linking MSA with Holocene people, suggesting a certain degree of morphological/genetic continuity through the late Pleistocene and into the Holocene in southern Africa, and also demonstrate links between the southern African MSA and patterns seen in the “sub-Saharan African dental complex.”

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