Marlon Bas (OREA)
Teeth are composed of the hardest tissue in the human body; it is therefore not surprising that they are well preserved in the archaeological record. For over a century, dental anthropologists have endeavored to extract as much information as possible from these tiny biological time capsules. One area of interest is the analysis of tooth wear for age determination and paleodietary reconstruction. Dental wear analysis can be both microscopic (microwear) or macroscopic (macrowear or gross dental wear). It has long been established that the rate and pattern of macrowear and the microscopic texture of the enamel surface are influenced by diet, food preparation, and the environment.
Like most mammals, humans generally begin life on a diet of milk. As their dental system develops, solid foods are introduced gradually into the diet until the child is weaned. The timing of this process is dependent on the availability of suitable soft foods with implications for fertility and childhood mortality. Further variability in diet can occur as a result of social status and a gender-b(i)ased treatment of children. Dental wear analysis is a promising approach for investigating these aspects of diet during childhood as it directly relates to the physical properties of foods.
Here we discuss how modern methods dental wear analysis, such as DMTA SSFA can best be used to investigate dietary transitions during childhood in the past.