The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Macro tooth wear patterns amongst the early hominins of South Africa


Institute of Archaeology, University College London

Thursday All day, Clinch Concourse Add to calendar

Research into the diet of early hominins has focused on data from craniodental morphology, palaeoecology, dental microwear and stable isotopes. While each of these lines of evidence has provided important insights into past diets, they often produce conflicting results. Microwear studies of early hominins from South Africa suggest they were largely fruit and leaf eaters, but that Australopithecus africanus consumed tougher, more elastic foods than Paranthropus robustus, which consumed harder and more brittle foods. Results from stable carbon isotope analysis, however, suggest greater similarities between their diets. This study presents an alternative source of evidence, examining the macro tooth wear patterns in A. africanus and P. robustus specimens from the South African sites of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai and Makapansgat. Macro tooth wear was measured from digital photographs of the permanent dentition of original specimens. A dentine proportion was calculated for each tooth by dividing the area of exposed dentine by the area of the occlusal surface. Wear patterns were compared independent of age; this was achieved by dividing the dentine proportions of each tooth by that of the first molar. The results not only show differences in the wear patterns between A. africanus and P. robustus specimens, but also between the different sites. These results are discussed in relation to differences in dental growth and development, tooth morphology and diet.

This study was funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

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