Altered States: Evaluating Postmortem Modification of Dental Tissues


This is an abstract from the "SAA 2019: General Sessions" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Teeth are the most likely skeletal elements to survive taphonomic insult, but are not impervious to diagenetic changes. The bulk of dietary, migratory, and climatic studies pursued by bioarchaeologists are reliant on unaltered preservation of dental tissue. Yet, contextual value of depositional environments is often overlooked. Though study of the physical, chemical, and microbial alteration of dental microstructures from archaeological and forensic contexts has long been pursued, such studies are poorly integrated. Estimating discrete parameters influencing dental taphonomy is difficult in inhumation experiments alone, and only obliquely inferred from descriptive studies. Here, we present a model-based approach for taphonomic alteration which explores discrete parameters in a controlled experimental fashion, using proxy mechanisms (temperature, humidity, pressure, pH and matrix composition) to measure mode and tempo of change in histological context. We apply this experimental approach to dental tissues to visualize introgression of tracer compounds and create an integrated classification of empirical referents for evaluating biominerals recovered from archaeological and forensic contexts, as well as parsing diagenetic from biogenic histological variation. These models can provide deeper explanatory power about the impact of specific taphonomic variables on DNA preservation, modification to calculus and isotope analyses, and inclusion of depositional micro-artifacts upon tissues.

Cite this Record

Altered States: Evaluating Postmortem Modification of Dental Tissues. Samantha Blatt, Amy Michael, John Dudgeon, Rebekah Rakowski, Kateea Peterson. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 449575)

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Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 25209