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

Dental morphological analysis of two Portuguese Neolithic samples


Anthropology, University of Alaska Fairbanks

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The development of farming is associated with profound social and biological changes globally. Such is the case on a local scale in the Iberian Peninsula during the Middle to Late Neolithic (4500-2000 BC) – a period characterized by the emergence of agriculturally dependent and complex societies. The purpose of this study is to compare dental nonmetric traits between Neolithic samples from the sites of Feteira II and Bolores, Portugal to estimate biological affinity and identify key features that contribute to variation among the interred individuals dating to this crucial time. The burial sites of Feteira II (3600-2900 BC) and Bolores (2800-1800 BC) were in use before and during a period of ecological and social change (2000/1800 B.C.). The former is a collective burial cave site with an MNI of 42 adults and 26 sub-adults. The latter is an artificial burial cave with an MNI of 14 adults and eight sub-adults. Thirty-six dental and osseous traits from the Arizona State University Dental Anthropology System were recorded in the permanent dentition with the aid of 23 reference plaques. Quantitative analyses using, among others, the Mean Measure of Divergence statistic, suggest that despite notable cultural change, there is biological continuity between the Feteira and Bolores samples. Compared to other Mediterranean area samples, Bolores, and to a lesser extent Feteira, are more similar to North African Carthaginians, Algerians, and Berbers than to southern European samples. These findings contribute to a diachronic understanding of population variation during an important time in this consequential world region.

Funding to collect some of the Portuguese and all of the comparative data was provided by National Science Foundation grants to the second author (BCS-0840674, BNS-0104731, BNS-9013942).

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