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Using oral health indicators as evidence of environmental instability and subsistence shifts in the Late Upper Paleolithic of Western Eurasia

Author(s): Sarah Lacy

Year: 2015

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Oral pathology prevalence can be used to make inferences about the behavioral and environmental factors that contribute to individual and population health. Late Upper Paleolithic Western Eurasian human groups were expanding geographically as well as increasing in density, and the major climatic oscillations that define this period stressed these pioneering humans. Evidence of this strain includes temporal differences in oral pathology prevalence, namely caries, periodontal disease, tooth loss, and evidence of oral infection, taken from 124 Upper Paleolithic individuals. Relative to the Early Upper Paleolithic, these Late Upper Paleolithic peoples show increased caries and periodontal disease prevalence, likely reflecting a shift towards carbohydrates from fats as the major nutritional supplement to an otherwise high protein diet. This would be an adaptation to increasing food resource pressures and reflect shifting ecozones. Though the severity of periodontal disease and percentage of teeth affected by alveolar lesions actually decreases in the Late Upper Paleolithic, more individuals are affected and tooth loss prevalence increases dramatically. This may indicate increasing cultural buffering of the effects of poor oral health and ultimately subsistence and environmental change. These trajectories continue into the Mesolithic. Terminal Pleistocene oral health reflects changing environmental conditions relative to the earlier Upper Paleolithic.

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Using oral health indicators as evidence of environmental instability and subsistence shifts in the Late Upper Paleolithic of Western Eurasia. Sarah Lacy. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 394960)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America