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

Atypical, asymmetrical dental wear on a medieval Transylvanian male


1Anthropology and Sociology, Western Carolina University, 2Anthropology, University of South Florida, 3Archaeology, Haáz Rezső Museum, 4Archaeology, ArchaeoTek-Canada LLC

April 17, 2020 , Platinum Ballroom Add to calendar

Atypical dental wear, in the form of attrition and erosion, was observed in an adult male from the medieval Papdomb archaeological site in Transylvania, Romania. Maxillary dentition presented severe buccal-to-lingual wear on multiple teeth with pulp cavity exposure. In contrast, mandibular dentition showed minimal-to-moderate wear with observable occlusal morphology, limited dentin exposure, and no instances of pulp cavity exposure. Four peri-apical lesions were also observed in the maxillary dentition; no other signs of pathological modification were present. Additionally, there were no signs of biological or behavioral modifications on the postcranial remains.

No previously documented cases of this pattern of asymmetrical dental wear could be found in the literature. Analysis of the dentition suggests that a combination of acid erosive- and mastication-related attrition could account for these features. Differential diagnosis of these features indicates erosion of the maxillary dentition is not the result of a physiological conditions such as gastrointestinal reflux or chronic vomiting. Additionally, the singular occurrence of the atypical wear pattern among the 223 observable dentitions suggests an individualized activity possibly related to occupation. Finally, the individual’s interment near the pulpit of the church intimates a person of status. Craft guilds were recognized through designated seating in medieval churches and medieval occupations related to the production of candles, soap, and pigments for clothing or painting required the production of lye, which could produce erosive fumes. Although, attribution of the origin of these modifications is difficult, an interpretation of occupational hazard is offered as the most reasonable interpretation.

Slides/Poster (pdf)