Analysis of dental attrition and mortality in the Medieval village of Tirup, Denmark


  • Jesper L. Boldsen

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Forensic Medicine, Department of Anthropology (ADBOU), University of Southern Denmark, DK 5000 Odense C, Denmark
    • Institute of Forensic Medicine, Department of Anthropology (ADBOU), SDU-Odense University, Campusvej 55, DK 5230 Odense M, Denmark
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New directions and new questions raised in the study of health in the past justify this reanalysis of the pattern of dental attrition in the Medieval Danish population of Tirup. Dental attrition was scored on all permanent molars from the Tirup skeletal sample. Scores were analyzed by means of logistic regression of the probability of having entered a given stage of wear for a given tooth in a way that is very similar to transition analysis. The primary determinant of dental attrition was age at death. In addition to age, the effects of sex, side, and dating were analyzed. In order to assess the homogeneity of the process of wearing teeth down, a third-order polynomial in age-at-death was also fitted to the transition probabilities. It was found that age is the single most important determinant of dental attrition, and that sex or side did not differentiate the rate of attrition. In several transitions, there was evidence of heterogeneity, indicating both random and systematic interpersonal differences in the rate of attrition and an association between the rate of attrition and age-at-death. It was found that attrition proceeded more quickly after AD 1300 than prior to that date. It is suggested that this was due to a possible general deterioration of living conditions in Northern Europe and an increased reliance on grain for food during the first half of the 14th century. The temporal effect on attrition rate accounts for some but not all the observed heterogeneity wear. Am J Phys Anthropol 126:169–176, 2005. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.