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

Microstep by microstep across dental cementum - Microanalysis of the alternating yearly deposits


1Laboratoire d'Anthropologie, Direction de l'Archéologie, Communauté d'Agglomération du Douaisis, 2Unité de Taphonomie Médico-Légale - Dpt. Anthropologie Biologique, Institut de Médecine Légale de Lille, Université Droit et Santé Lille II, 3UMR 5199 PACEA, Université de Bordeaux I, 4Laboratoire d’Analyses Physiques et de Caractérisation des Matériaux, Direction de l'Archéologie, Communauté d'Agglomération du Douaisis, 5Faculté de Chirurgie Dentaire, Université Droit et Santé Lille II

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Although the ultrastructural nature of the dental cementum is still an open question, appositional layers are used more reliably than other morphological or histological traits of the adult skeleton to estimate individual age-at-death. Considering that the alternating dark and light rings seen under light microscope reflect cementum composition and organisation variations, the ability to follow elements into the tooth matrix may provide an objective technique to identify alternating deposits.

By means of Environmental Scanning Electron Microscopy equipped with Energy-Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy and Raman Spectrometry, dental cementum was studied in selected modern teeth of known individuals. The organic content, mainly collagen and the major elements of the inorganic content, mainly apatite, were measured along linear paths crossing the cementum deposit to verify if the position of the peaks and their number correspond to the number and positions of the layers in light microscopy. Linescans suggest a link between chemical composition variations across the width of cementum and incremental lines. Spot analyses have been done with the aim to discuss intra-dental variation in elements concentrations and reveal for some deposits a significant difference in calcium proportion.

A first application of this methodology to archaeological samples excavated from the Saint Amé’s Collegiate Church (A.D. 950-1797) in Douai (Northern France) is presented and discussed.

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