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Keywords:

  • wild boar;
  • domestic pig;
  • Sus scrofa;
  • north-west Europe;
  • prehistoric husbandry;
  • dental defects

Abstract

Linear enamel hypoplasia (LEH), a deficiency in enamel formation visible on mammal tooth crowns, can be used as a retrospective indicator of physiological stress and developmental health in humans and animals. In this first study, for north-western Europe, the condition has been recorded from prehistoric (mesolithic) and recent populations of wild boar, and from domestic pigs belonging to early farming (neolithic) communities. It was possible to show that LEH occurs in recent and ancient populations of wild boar from north-west Europe, and that the occurrence of the condition can be explained by the same events within the animal's life (birth, weaning, winter starvation) as has been previously suggested for archaeological domestic pig samples. The frequency of LEH is consistently low within all ancient and recent populations of wild boar studied, a remarkable observation given the pronounced differences in the living conditions of these two diachronically well-separated groups, mainly linked with the increasing human pressure on recent populations of wild animals. Early domestic samples generally show high LEH frequencies, although considerable variation exists between the samples. It is suggested that these high frequencies are, in general, the result of domestication, while the variation could be related to differences in early husbandry. The observation of LEH, therefore, provides a valuable tool for studying the history of animal domestication.