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Keywords:

  • dental mineralization;
  • tissue proportions;
  • lower deciduous dentition;
  • late Upper Paleolithic;
  • microtomography

Abstract

Affinities and differences in dental maturational patterns between modern humans and Neanderthals remain a matter of discussion. In particular, deciduous teeth are rare for Late Pleistocene humans, and few entire sequences have been detailed for their developmental status. Here, we report the results from the 3D virtual reconstruction and structural analysis of the deciduous lower dentition (nine teeth in situ) of the child from La Madeleine (LM4), France, the first Upper Paleolithic specimen detailed so far by means of high-resolution microtomography (μCT). With respect to the modern dental developmental standards, age at death of this individual is now more likely estimated within the interval 3–4 years. LM4 lacks the slight discrepancy between a proportionally advanced stage of mineralization of the deciduous first molar and a relatively delayed maturational level of the incisors, which is found in Neanderthals (Bayle et al.: J Hum Evol 56 [2009] 66–75). By using a Bayesian approach, we calculated the probability that its maturational sequence is found within the extant human variation as represented by a tomographic (CT) reference sample of 45 children scored according to the same protocol (Liversidge and Molleson: Am J Phys Anthropol 123 [2004] 172–180). Results show that the specific sequence of this Magdalenian individual is found three times in the comparative sample included in this study. LM4 absolute tooth size and relative dental tissue proportions are close to the modern human figures (characterized by proportionally reduced dentine volumes) and lie systematically below the values shown by the Neanderthal child from Roc de Marsal, France (OIS 5a). Am J Phys Anthropol 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.