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

Dental microwear texture analysis of Bronze and Iron Age Agriculturalists from England


1Department of Anthropology, University of Indianapolis, 2School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent, 3Osteoarchaeology Specialist, Wessex Archaeology

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Archaeological evidence indicates that agriculture became an increasingly important subsistence strategy in England from the Early Bronze Age (EBA, ~2500-1500 BC) to the Middle/Late Bronze Age (MLBA, ~1500-800 BC) and Iron Age (IA, ~800 BC-100 AD). Through time, people exploited more land for farming, planted hulled barley over naked barley, and spelt over emmer wheat. Other new foods included rye and Celtic bean. Evidence for food processing is sparse, but cereals appear to have been ground using stone tools. Here, we reconstruct diet through dental texture analysis and compare results to the subsistence data from archaeological sources.

Using a white-light confocal profiler and scale-sensitive fractal analysis software, we compared anisotropy (epLsar), complexity (Asfc), and textural fill volume (Tfv) of upper and lower first and second molars of EBA (n=32), MLBA (n=11), and IA (n=7) individuals from England. One-way ANOVAs indicate that epLsar (0.00424566, 0.00490245, and 0.00398671, respectively) and Tfv (32193.0053, 38098.9734, and 36637.3455, respectively) did not differ significantly. However, Asfc decreased significantly (1.424062, 1.239129, and 1.135811, respectively) from the EBA to the MLBA, and from the MLBA to the IA (df=2, F=11.772, p<0.000). The decrease in complexity suggests that the diet became significantly softer . However, the similarity in the epLsar and Tfv values when compared between the time periods indicate that the dietary shift was not a wholesale change. Rather, relatively few changes in diet occurred over time even as the variety of foods available increased.

This study was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (BCS-0922930 to CWS).

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