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Integrative Approaches to Dental Wear: Non-Masticatory Tooth-Use Across the Mesolithic-Neolithic Transition Among Iberian Foraging and Farming Societies


The IDENTITIES project investigates human dental wear related to the non-masticatory use of the dentition (the habitual use of “teeth-as-tools”) among human groups that span the Mesolithic-Neolithic Transition in the Iberian Peninsula – a period of complex social, economic, and technological reorganization corresponding to a shift from hunting and gathering to a dependence on domesticated plants and animals. A lifetime of using the teeth for habitual, manipulative tasks leaves distinct traces on enamel, and these idiosyncratic patterns of wear provide biocultural markers of social identities when aligned with information on sex, age, occupation, or status of individuals across archaeological samples. Human dental remains from archaeological sites across the Iberia provide an ideal regional focus for exploring biocultural changes related to tooth-use during a crucial prehistoric socioeconomic transition. IDENTITIES is interdisciplinary, bringing together experts in microscopy, experimental methods, bio/archaeology, and paleoanthropology through an integrative methodology to document non-masticatory dental wear. The methodologies include recent advances in Gigapixel-like imaging strategies, confocal and scanning electron microscopy, and three-dimensional dental topographic methods to analyze experimentally-worn and archaeological samples. The integrative methodology was also established to cross-validate each method (presently an unresolved issue), and advance the study of material surface modification of biological and archaeological materials generally. In addition to providing an intellectual impact through methodological advances, the same data will directly address how biocultural changes in non-masticatory tooth-use reflect changing social identities across archaeological groups of the last foraging peoples (Mesolithic), nascent farming societies (Neolithic), and established agriculturalists (Chalcolithic) in the Iberian Peninsula.

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Zona Educacional 4 Campus Sescelade Edi Num 3 Universitat Rovira I Virgili
43007 Tarragona
Activity type
Research Organisations
EU contribution
€ 158 121,60