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

Microwear texture analysis of mandibular molars recovered from four Medieval sites in England and Ireland


1Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, 2Department of History, Saint Louis University, 3Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Indiana University School of Medicine

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Excavation of the Medieval ecclesiastical site at Kilteasheen (Co. Roscommon, Ireland) recovered the skeletal remains of 131 individuals, which demonstrate poor dental health and significant physiological stress at the site. Historical records suggest the site was a stronghold for the O’Conor Kings of Connacht from the mid-7th to 14th centuries, but little is known about the subsistence patterns practiced by its residents. This study uses white light scanning confocal microscopy and scale-sensitive fractal analysis to quantify the occlusal microwear fabric of 32 adult mandibular molars from Kilteasheen and three other Medieval sites in England and Ireland in order to elucidate potential differences in subsistence practices at each of the sites. Results indicate a smaller enamel surface scale of maximum complexity (smc) at Kilteasheen than at All Saint’s church (York, England) (p=0.009), which suggests that wear-causing particles may have been smaller at Kilteasheen than at York. Historical records suggest similar diets among sites, but potentially different food preparation techniques: grain with a higher moisture content in Kilteasheen likely required longer milling times to process than in York, leaving behind finer non-food abrasives. The results of this study show promise in the utilization of DMTA along with historical records and environmental information in contributing unique knowledge to the challenging task of utilizing human remains to infer the diets of past populations.

Funded by the President’s Research fund of Saint Louis University.

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