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Dietary and behavioral inferences from dental pathology and non-masticatory wear on dentitions from a British medieval town

By Ian Towle, Carole Davenport, Joel D Irish, Isabelle De Groote

Posted 19 Nov 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/222091

Dental pathology and wear data can provide valuable insights into diet, cultural practices, and the health of populations. In this study, various dental pathologies and types of wear were recorded for 41 individuals (914 permanent teeth), excavated from the medieval cemetery of St. Owens Church in Southgate Street, Gloucester. Teeth were studied macroscopically with a 10x hand lens to confirm the presence of specific pathologies. Relatively high rates of antemortem chipping on the anterior teeth, and the presence of maxillary central incisor notches, suggested that the Gloucester population commonly used their teeth for non-masticatory activities. Abscessing and antemortem tooth loss fell within previously reported ranges for British medieval sites (2.6% and 6% respectively). However, the sample exhibits extremely high levels of carious lesions and calculus. Nearly 24% of teeth have at least one carious lesion, and the presence of calculus was recorded in 74% of teeth within the sample. Overall caries frequency is similar to sites from later time periods. This frequency may reflect Gloucester's location as a large port town. Remains from the same area, but the earlier Roman period, also shows high rates of both caries and calculus, suggesting a continuation of consuming certain cariogenic foods is likely.

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