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

Deciduous Enamel Defects: Perinatal Health at Non Nok Tha, Thailand


Department of Anthropology, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

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Non Nok Tha is a cemetery site in Northeast Thailand (c 3000 - 200BC) excavated in the late 1960s. The presence of pottery, rice, cattle, dogs, and a variety of wild game, suggests that a mixed subsistence regime of foraging and rice cultivation was maintained. While it is clear that the agricultural revolution had a significant, negative impact on population health, there is also evidence that even at the transition to agriculture, when populations were still practicing a more mixed subsistence strategy, that health was compromised. To assess the impact of this mixed subsistence strategy on maternal health, as well as that of the developing fetus and infants, a reanalysis of the deciduous dentition from the 1968 Non Nok Tha skeletal series was undertaken. Enamel defects on all teeth were scored and measured using standard methods. Six of twenty individuals with observable deciduous dentition exhibited enamel defects (30%) and eleven of 134 teeth (8%). Analysis revealed that 56% of defects occurred between the 9th month of gestation and the 2nd month of infancy and that 66% of individuals exhibiting enamel defects experienced initial onset during this period of time. Additionally, 83% of affected individuals presented at least one defect within this three-month period. These data contrast with published work on agricultural groups who experienced initial onset of hypoplasia earlier in pregnancy. Our results suggest that, for those pursuing a mixed subsistence economy at Non Nok Tha, the perinatal period was a time of vulnerability for mothers and their offspring.

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