The 86th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2017)

Differences in the non-masticatory dental wear of two medieval assemblages from the 4th cataract, Sudan


1Institute of Archaeology, UCL, 2Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan, The British Museum

April 20, 2017 , Acadia Add to calendar

Previous research has demonstrated that examination of non-masticatory dental wear can deliver insight into past behavioural practices. Well preserved skeletons from two Medieval period sites in the 4th Cataract, Sudan have provided an opportunity to test this hypothesis. At site 3-J-18 enamel rim edge chipping increased with age, around 10% of adolescents, 30%/36% young/middle adult males and 21%/26% young/middle adult females showed ante-mortem chipping. The majority of the ante-mortem chipping was found in the molars, though a high prevalence of post-mortem chipping of the anterior teeth may have biased this result. 7% of individuals examined displayed polished grooves on the labial or buccal surfaces of either upper, lower or both dentitions. SEM analysis showed striations running almost invariably in a mesial-distal direction. Additionally two individuals were found to have interproximal grooves between the molars. The majority of labial and interproximal grooves were found in females. This data suggests that certain behaviour or cultural practices may have varied by sex. Preliminary results from 3-J-23, an earlier 4th cataract medieval site, are similar with regards to edge chipping but no labial or buccal grooves were observed. The cause of these groove patterns remains to be elucidated but, based on these two sites, appears to have been a feature of the late Medieval period. Further research on other sites and periods in the region will help contextualise these findings and add to our understanding of the inhabitants of the 4th cataract.

This research is part of a Colaborative Doctoral Partnership between the British Museum and University College London, supported by the AHRC.