Session: #152

Theme & Session Format

Interpreting the archaeological record: artefacts, humans and landscapes
Session format:
Regular session

Title & Content

Approaching Health Status, Health Care and People’s Wellbeing in the Past from a Dental Anthropological Perspective
Teeth are hard and tough! They are the best-preserved tissue and source of information about people’s lives, encounters, and interactions in archaeology.

As they develop throughout an individual’s life, different nutritional and physiological disturbances affecting health from childhood, leave permanent traces on the individual’s teeth. Once teeth have formed, they are prone to modifications resulting from attrition, intentional alterations, and pathological conditions. Consequently, the assessment of dental markers, pathologies, and biochemical analysis of dental tissues provides insights into the episodes of disruption, pathological susceptibility and epidemiological events that a population endures over a specific period.

Undoubtedly the analysis of teeth has undergone extensive transformations during the last decade. New options arise from advances in analytical dental histology and biochemistry, such as the introduction of DNA analysis of pathogens preserved in oral tissues, improving the accuracy of applied techniques and results, and pushing forward previous analytical limitations, particularly our own research questions. These have evolved from mere dental pathological characterizations towards a more comprehensive understanding of health status and care of studied populations.

This session seeks to integrate a variety of dental studies following this holistic approach to infer health status and well-being in past populations by integrating dental studies combining diverse methodological approaches and sources of information. To integrate dental studies that provide insights into biological, sociocultural and behavioral components, and a picture of people’s daily lives, involving health care, healing strategies and people’s attitudes towards diseases.

You are welcome to present outcomes of recent research, methodological improvements or experimental studies. Case studies, comparative studies, overviews, uni- and multidisciplinary research papers are also welcome! We are pleased to discuss methodological and theoretical challenges in working with teeth, the somewhat hidden role of health care in past societies, and the potential for it to be traced through the analysis of teeth.
Dental Anthropology, Health Status, Teeth developmental disruptions, Health Care, Healing strategies
Session associated with MERC:
Session associated with CIfA:
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Main organiser:
Maria Kolp-Godoy Allende (Switzerland) 1
Diego López Onaindia (Spain) 2
1. Department of Archaeology, Prehistoric Archaeology Division, University of Zurich
2. Unitat d'Antropologia Biològica. Departament BABVE. Facultat de Biociències, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona