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The Tooth About Pastoralism: Oral Health, Physiological Stress and Diet in a 19th Century Mobile Pastoralist Population from Mongolia

Author(s): Barbara Betz

Year: 2015

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To better understand diet, oral health, and physiological stress loads of historic 19th century mobile pastoralists from Central Asia, the frequency of caries, ante-mortem tooth loss (AMTL), and linear enamel hypoplasia (LEH) were assessed macroscopically from a skeletal sample (n=40) of a pastoralist population from Urga (Ulaanbaatar), Mongolia. Results show a low percentage of individuals affected by caries (11.4%) consistent with a diet low in sugars and carbohydrates but high in animal products. Thus, despite potential access to agricultural products within their interaction sphere, such foods did not appear to have played a significant role in this population’s diet. However, examination showed high prevalence of AMTL (67.5%), which may lead to underestimation of carious lesion prevalence. While LEH frequency among the Urga population appears high (77%), comparison with a contemporaneous sedentary, agriculture-dependent population from Guangdong province in southern China (n=37) shows a significantly higher percentage of individuals with LEH (100%) and evidence of multiple periods of stress (Urga: 27%, Guangdong: 92%). These results suggest that there are generally lower physiological costs associated with a pastoral rather than agricultural lifestyle and that mobility, population density, and diet have a significant effect on stress loads in these settings.

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The Tooth About Pastoralism: Oral Health, Physiological Stress and Diet in a 19th Century Mobile Pastoralist Population from Mongolia. Barbara Betz. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 398400)


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min long: 66.885; min lat: -8.928 ; max long: 147.568; max lat: 54.059 ;

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