On the relationship of dental microwear to dental macrowear


  • Christopher W. Schmidt

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anthropology, University of Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN 46227
    • Indiana Prehistory Laboratory, University of Indianapolis, 1400 E. Hanna Avenue, Indianapolis, Indiana 46227, USA
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Dental microwear analysts have demonstrated that hard diets leave numerous microscopic pits on occlusal surfaces. The relationship between occlusal pitting and gross macrowear, however, is not well known. The current study seeks to elucidate the relationship between dental microwear and macrowear by determining if microscopically pitted teeth are associated with greater expressions of macrowear. This study examined microwear and macrowear on mandibular second molars from 60 prehistoric adult Native Americans representing three dietary regimes (foraging, mixed economy, and agriculture). Initially, two dental microwear feature variables were studied: percentage of pits and mean scratch width. Standard macrowear scores ranged from 4 to 40. ANOVAs suggested that neither of the microwear variables was affected by age or sex, but age affected macrowear scores. Because of this, the sample had a balanced number of young and old adults (i.e., those below and above skeletal age 35). A Pearson's correlation showed no covariation between scratch width and the percentage of pits. Regression analysis indicated that macrowear was not a function of the percentage of pits. However, a significant positive relationship was found between dental macrowear and scratch width. A post priori test found a significant negative relationship between macrowear and the total number of scratches. It is concluded, then, that wide scratches remove more enamel and dentin than do numerous pits, although both cause dental wear. It is suggested here that the term “abrasive” be used to describe those microwear profiles that lead to heavy macrowear and have relatively wide scratches. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2010. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.