The 89th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2020)

A comparison of dental microwear texture across hunter-gatherer sites in South Australia


1Anthropology, University of Auckland, 2Department of Anatomy, University of Otago

April 17, 2020 , Platinum Ballroom Add to calendar

Differences in the patterning of macro and microwear have been noted between and within groups of Aboriginal hunter-gatherers. These differences are thought to reflect heterogeneity in diet and activity. More recently, dental microwear texture analysis (DMTA) data from South Australia have indicated that local environment and the presence of grit or sand may play a significant role in the production of microwear complexity values. A comparative analysis of dental microwear texture was conducted on individuals from three hunter-gatherer sites in South Australia, Roonka, Yorke Peninsula and the Gillman Mound (n=55). These sites span 3 very distinct ecological zones within South Australia (riverine, coastal, and estuarine).

Four measures of microwear texture were analysed; textural fill volume (Tfv), area scale fractal complexity (Asfc), scale of maximum complexity (Smc) and anisotropy (epLsar). Analysis of Asfc and Smc demonstrate significant differences between the sites (F(2,52)=4.858, p=0.012); (F(2,52)=12.180, p=<0.005) respectively. The complexity of the microwear texture is highest at the coastal site, followed by the riverine site, and then the estuarine site, indicating different amounts of abrasives were consumed with foods. However, there is also an indication that the nature of the abrasives is not consistent across sites. The riverine site shows the highest Smc values, while the coastal and estuarine site show comparatively low Smc values. We interpret these results in relation to environmental, food preparation, and dietary variation across these three sites.

The research is funded by the Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Fund (14-UOA-19). 

Slides/Poster (pdf)