Tooth wear, Neanderthal facial morphology and the anterior dental loading hypothesis

  • Clement A
  • Hillson S
  • Aiello L
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Abstract

The Anterior Dental Loading Hypothesis states that the unique Neanderthal facial and dental anatomy was an adaptive response to the regular application of heavy forces resulting from both the masticatory and cultural use of the anterior teeth. Heavy anterior tooth wear frequently observed in Neanderthal specimens is cited as a main source of evidence for heavy forces being applied to these teeth. From this, it might be predicted that the wear shown on the anterior teeth of Neanderthals would greatly exceed that of the posterior teeth and that this differential would be greater than in other hominins with different facial morphologies.In this paper, a new method of examining tooth wear patterns is used to test these predictions in a large assemblage of Late Pleistocene hominins and a group of recent hunter-gatherers from Igloolik, Canada. The results show that all Late Pleistocene hominins, including Neanderthals, had heavily worn anterior teeth relative to their posterior teeth but, contrary to expectations, this was more pronounced in the modern humans than in the Neanderthals. The Igloolik Inuit showed heavier anterior tooth wear relative to their posterior teeth than any Late Pleistocene hominins. There was, however, a characteristic Neanderthal pattern in which wear was more evenly spread between anterior teeth than in modern humans. Overall, the evidence presented here suggests that all Late Pleistocene hominins habitually applied heavy forces between their anterior teeth and that Neanderthals were not exceptional in this regard. These results therefore does not support the Anterior Dental Loading Hypothesis. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Anterior dentition
  • Homo
  • Inuit
  • Paleolithic
  • Pleistocene
  • Wear ratio

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Authors

  • Anna F. Clement

  • Simon W. Hillson

  • Leslie C. Aiello

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