Teeth as tools: Paramasticatory dental modifications reflecting habitual behavior in the Danube Gorges, Serbia (9500 - 5500 B.C.)

Author(s): Kevan Edinborough; Marija Radovic

Year: 2015


Technological knowledge and task-related activities of past populations are known mostly by analyses of material culture remains. Here we use a new line of evidence for reconstructing habitual behavior by investigating paramasticatory use of human teeth. Paramasticatory dental modifications (chipping, notching, occlusal and interproximal grooving) are examined on 89 individuals' dentitions (1308 teeth) from three sites of the Lepenski Vir culture: Vlasac, Lepenski Vir and Padina in the Danube Gorges, eastern Serbia (9500 - 5500 BC). Both macro- and microscopic (scanning electron microscope - SEM) lesions are analyzed. Paramasticatory use of teeth was detected in 43% (38/89) of individuals. Variations in sex/age categories and diachronic changes in teeth use-wear patterns are quantified. SEM surface imaging and micro-residue analyses of lesions enabled comprehensive investigation of their etiology. Specific task-related activities involving teeth-as-tools (e.g. cordage/basketry, bow-drilling) were only detectable using SEM analyses.

Our SEM results show that teeth formed an integral part of tool kits for prehistoric inhabitants of the Danube Gorges. Ethnographic and material culture comparisons indicate patterns of tooth-wear found in our study have significant implications for understanding technological evolution in other case-study areas. Thus, archaeometry can provide an essential insight into human behavior.

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Cite this Record

Teeth as tools: Paramasticatory dental modifications reflecting habitual behavior in the Danube Gorges, Serbia (9500 - 5500 B.C.). Marija Radovic, Kevan Edinborough. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396502)


Spatial Coverage

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