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

The dog days of stress: a comparison of methods for determining age at occurrence of enamel hypoplasias


Anthropology and Sociology, University of Southern Mississippi

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Considering human teeth develop systematically, a chronology of an individual’s childhood stressors can be determined. Studies on macroscopic methods of formulating age at disturbance suggest it is less precise than microscopic means. Nonetheless, macroscopic techniques remain the most commonly used because of the quickness and ease of calculations. The aim of this study is to compare patterns from results of macroscopic methods introduced by Goodman and colleagues (1980), Goodman and Rose (1990), Lewis and Roberts (1997), incorporating more precise data on cross-cultural timing of the completion of crown formation suggested by Reid and Dean (2006). The sample is a Colonial Maya population of 588 interments. Some 329 individuals, ranging from six to 50+ years old, were analyzed for hypoplastic defects and their associated crown locations.

Different ages of complete crown formation were substituted in the formulae, with outcomes varying greatly. Methods outlined by Lewis and Roberts (1997) produced the youngest ages, giving a range from in-utero to 2.5 years old for incisors and from one to 2.5 years old for canines. In contrast, Goodman and Rose’s (1990) technique resulted in oldest ages, with intervals for incisors from two to 3.5 years old and 2.5 to 4.9 years old for canines. Not surprisingly, Goodman and Colleagues’ (1980) ages of 2.5 for incisors and 3.5 for canines are more closely related to Goodman and Rose (1990) than Lewis and Roberts (1997). Hence, selection of methodologies and age at complete crown formation need to be carefully considered when determining age of hypoplastic defects.

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