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

Oral health and implications for diet in the Early Holocene Paleoindians of Lagoa Santa, Brazil


Anthropology, The Ohio State University

Friday 2:45-3:00, Grand Ballroom II Add to calendar

The Lagoa Santa region in central Brazil has produced dozens of human skeletons dated to the early Holocene (ca. 10,000-7,000 yBP). This series provides the opportunity to investigate oral health and to draw inferences about diet and nutrition of early Holocene South Americans. Paleoindian diet has been the focus of current debate regarding the classic model of big-game hunters versus a generalized subsistence strategy. We test the hypothesis that Paleoindians of Lagoa Santa show oral health similar to foraging populations. For comparison, we use a large database of archaeological populations from the History of Health in the Western Hemisphere Project (n=6,566). Prevalence of caries in Lagoa Santa is 7.9% of teeth (n=917) and 63.0% of individuals affected (n=27). These prevalences depart significantly (chi-square; p<0.05) from the forager populations in the Western Hemipshere database (3.6%, teeth; 31.6%, individuals). The analysis shows significantly higher prevalence of carious lesions in Lagoa Santa females (21.6%, n=111) than in Lagoa Santa males (5.2%, n=287). In addition, males have significantly higher tooth wear (4.26 vs 3.96), whereas females have higher antemortem tooth loss (9.4% vs 3.5%). These results suggest the consumption of a relatively high carbohydrate diet in Lagoa Santa Paleoindians, supporting the hypothesis of a diverse diet, including significant plant consumption. Furthermore, we detected significant sex differences in diet, with a more cariogenic diet for females. Our findings suggest consumption of tubers, fruits, and other potentially cariogenic plants present in the Brazilian savannah biome today.

Grant support from CNPq-Brazil (process 200034/2007-3) and The Ohio State University

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