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

Dental connections between Late Pleistocene and Holocene Khoesan populations in southern Africa


Department of Archaeology, University of Cape Town

Saturday 12:00-12:15, Ballroom C Add to calendar

Studies of dental variation can provide important insight into the morphological, and presumably genetic, relationships among people across time and space. Although previous studies of crania have suggested a degree of morphological/genetic continuity between Holocene Khoesan hunter-gatherers and earlier Late Pleistocene people, comparably detailed studies of dental variation have not been done. Here, we present an overview of metric and non-metric dental variation in Holocene Khoesan peoples, then compare these data to Late Pleistocene specimens from southern Africa. Khoesan dental data were collected from >400 archaeological samples. Late Pleistocene samples include specimens from Cave of Hearths, Border Cave, Die Kelders, Hoetjiespunt, Hofmeyr, Klasies River Mouth and Sea Harvest Cave. Results suggest that previously published summaries of dental variation in the Khoesan may not be accurate, perhaps due to reliance on recent (admixed?) populations. There are not significant tooth size differences between Late Pleistocene and Holocene hunter-gatherers. Although only 26 non-metric traits could be evaluated on Late Pleistocene teeth due to preservation and wear, 19 of these demonstrate similarity in both datasets, including shovelling, upper M1 Carabelli’s trait, lower M2 Y-groove pattern and lower M1 cusp 7. These data support previous work linking Late Pleistocene with Holocene people, supporting morphological/genetic continuity in southern Africa.

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