Dental reduction in post-pleistocene Nubia



Tooth size changes among Nubian archaeological populations dating from the Mesolithic through the Christian era, a period of approximately 12,000 years, are analyzed. Standard length and breadth dimensions of all permanent teeth from several cultural horizons are combined to form three large samples: Mesolithic, 10000–7000 B.C.; Agriculturalist, 3300–1100 B.C. (A-group, C-group, Pharaonic); and Intensive Agriculturalist, A.D. 0–1400 (Meroitic, X-Group, Christian). Such information not only fills a void in the knowledge of Nubian skeletal biology, but also provides a much needed African reference point for the comparison of tooth size data among anatomically modern Homo sapiens from various regions of the world.

Changes in mean tooth size and associated t-tests reveal strong and significant reduction in dental size between the Mesolithic and Agriculturalist samples, followed by a continued although diminished trend of reduction for only the molar teeth between the two Agriculturalist groups. These patterns are best observed by examining tooth breadths, which are considered as the most reliable indicator of tooth size. Previously published odontometrics of the Nubian Mesolithic are briefly compared to the findings of this diachronic analysis of Nubian dental change.