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Keywords:

  • diet;
  • anterior tooth use;
  • environmental abrasives;
  • bioarcheology

Abstract

Dental microwear texture analysis has proven to be a valuable tool for inferring aspects of subsistence behaviour in human groups and diet in other mammals. Studies have to date been limited to molar teeth. Here we report on the first microwear texture analysis of incisors. Five bioarcheological groups were included in this analysis: Aleuts from various islands in the Bering Sea (n = 24), Arikara from the Mobridge site in South Dakota (n = 18), ethnic Chinese cannery workers from Kodiak Island (n = 16), a Late Woodland Bluff sample from Jersey County, Illinois (n = 18) and Puye Pueblo from Pajarito Plateau in New Mexico (n = 18). First, point clouds with 0.18 µm lateral spacing and 0.005 µm vertical resolution were obtained from maxillary central incisor labial surfaces using a white-light confocal profiler. Four adjoining fields were sampled for a total area of 276 µm × 204 µm for each specimen. Surface data were then imported into scale-sensitive fractal analysis software for texture characterisation. Results indicate significant variation among groups in anisotropy, fill volume and heterogeneity. These differences are likely related to differences in diet, degrees and types of non-dietary incisor use, as well as exposure to abrasives. This study also suggests that texture variables most useful for characterising and comparing incisor microwear may differ from those most useful for distinguishing molar microwear patterns. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.