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

Diet in the mountains: Using dental pathology to assess subsistence strategies in Paa-ko, New Mexico


1Department of Anthropology, The Ohio State University, 2San Diego Museum of Man

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Severity, frequency, and location of dental caries have long been used as indicators of subsistence practices, particularly reliance on agriculture. This study uses dental caries data, periodontal disease frequency, and attrition rates to address dietary habits within the prehistoric community of Paa-ko, New Mexico. Reliance on agriculture intensified in western New Mexico around AD 200-550 (Schollmeyer and Turner 2004) while the occupation of Paa-ko began around AD 1300 (Lambert 1954). Therefore, agriculture was introduced in the region prior to the Paa-ko occupation. Despite this, archaeological evidence suggests this population practiced a mixed subsistence economy of foraging and farming (Lambert 1954). It was hypothesized that dental pathology data would support the archaeological findings, reflecting that Paa-ko did not rely solely on agricultural practices as their primary food source. Standard protocol data collection was used for assessing pathology. Dental caries frequency was within the range of agricultural populations (18.4%; Turner 1979). However, the frequency of interproximal caries was relatively low, suggesting there may have been dietary supplementation. Attrition was severe, even in younger adults, suggesting an abrasive diet. Frequencies of abscesses and antemortem tooth loss were also high. These findings suggest that the people of Paa-ko primarily subsisted on agricultural crops, but also supplemented their diet for portions of the year.

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