Get access

Talon cusp from two archaic period cemeteries in North America: Implications for comparative evolutionary morphology



Talon cusps are rare morphological features of the anterior dentition that represent a spectrum of lingual cingulum diversity. In this paper, talon cusp prevalence is described in two Archaic period North American samples, Windover Pond (Florida) and Buckeye Knoll (Texas). Given the early date of these cemeteries (∼7500 BP), these specimens represent the oldest reported cases of lingual talon cusp in the New World, and perhaps globally. Windover preserves three cases of talon cusp (representing three different individuals) affecting the permanent maxillary lateral incisors. The sample frequencies were 1.8% and 3.1% for the left and right maxillary lateral incisors, respectively. Buckeye Knoll preserves four cases of talon cusp representing three individuals. Talon cusps at this site were distributed throughout the maxillary anterior dentition, including a permanent maxillary central incisor, bilateral permanent maxillary lateral incisors, and a deciduous maxillary lateral incisor. The multicomponent nature of this site complicates sample frequency calculation with by-tooth estimates ranging from 3.6% to 25%. This paper discusses the difficulties with comparative frequency estimation, resulting from a proliferation of terminology that is discipline-specific. Understanding the evolutionary basis and significance of dental morphological variation requires an inclusive approach to the comparative literature that focuses on homology within the context of odontogenetic process. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2011. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.