Incidence and patterning of dental enamel hypoplasia among the Neandertals



Dental enamel hypoplasia (DEH), as an indicator of nonspecific stress during development, provides an assessment of the relative morbidity of past human populations. An investigation of 669 Neandertal dental crowns yielded an overall DEH frequency of 36.0% by tooth (41.9% for permanent teeth; 3.9% for deciduous teeth) and about 75% by individual. These incidences place the Neandertals at the top of recent human ranges of variation in DEH frequencies, indicating high levels of stress during development. The paucity of deciduous tooth DEH and M1 DEH, combined with generally increasing levels of DEH through later calcifying teeth, suggests that the stress was primarily nutritional, beginning at weaning and continuing through adolescence. This supports paleontological and archeological interpretations implying significantly lower effectiveness for Neandertal foraging compared to that of modern humans.