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Keywords:

  • Dental microwear;
  • Wear striation;
  • Masticatory movement;
  • Direction;
  • Primates

Abstract

Two experimental methods were used to produce wear stria-tions in one direction on unworn teeth. These include: (1) sliding 22 American Indian (Juntunen site, Michigan; Late Woodland) newly erupted incisors, by hand, across a flat glass surface covered with fine loose sand; and (2) using a unidirectional motor driven mechanical wear machine to draw 56 modern human dental extractions across a flat glass surface covered with silicon carbide powder of different grit sizes. A scanning electron microscope examination of individual wear striation morphology indicates that these wear striations begin with broad pits and have extending grooves that become narrower; characteristics that indicate the motion of wear. Patterns of wear striations on the worn dentitions of American Indians (Juntunen site) and the paleocene primate Phenacolemur pagei show similar characteristics and correspond to the buccal phase of mastication when the mandible is drawn upward, forward and slightly medially into centric occlusion. The data provided by this study can be used to test competing hypotheses concerning the direction of mandibular movement during mastication and food preparation.