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

Caries prevalence in ancient Egyptians and Nubians, ca. 14,000 BCE-1,400 CE


1Anthropology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2Research Centre in Evolutionary Anthropology and Paleoecology, Liverpool John Moores University

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A total of 26,786 teeth belonging to 1,065 Egyptians and 777 Nubians (18 and 15 samples, respectively) of mixed sex and age were observed for caries. 820 (0.03%) teeth belonging to 404 individuals (21.9%) show at least one carious lesion. The most common lesion is the occlusal type and the most commonly affected teeth are the molars (449 in 820 teeth, or 54.7%). From the 449 molars with carious pathology, 298 (66.3%) belong to the lower jaw.

There are no statistically significant differences in caries prevalence between males and females [t (1467) = - 4.09, p < 0.05], or between Egypt and Nubia [ F (1, 1840) = 2.72, p < 0.05). Significant differences occur in the interactions of caries frequencies with sex, region, period, and economy. Univariate ANOVA tests indicate that significant differences exist between Upper Nubia, and Lower Nubia/Lower Egypt. Upper Nubia exhibits both the least caries occurrence and the least sexual dimorphism in caries of all the regions in the study.Prehistoric h/g show unusually high caries frequencies. In most periods, males retain a non-significant lead in caries over females.

In view of the above, the present study can promulgate further research in the direction of 1) understanding the cultural/ecological context of what appears to be a unique dietary profile for Upper Nubia, 2) a re-evaluation of the carbohydrate component in prehistoric Nubian diet, and 3) a re-evaluation of current understanding of sexual caries dimorphism in agricultural populations.

Thanks also go to everybody at the institutions from which JDI collected the odontometric data. Funding was provided to JDI by the National Science Foundation (BNS-0104731), Wenner-Gren Foundation (#7557), National Geographic Society (#8116-06), Institute for Bioarchaeology, ASU Research Development Program, Hierakonpolis Expedition, and American Museum of Natural History.

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