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Virtual Anthropology of Prehistoric Portugal

Project description

Dental anthropological study of prehistoric humans in Portugal

Dental anthropology studies teeth to compare ancient and modern humans or population groups to find similarities and differences in the structure of teeth in relation to evolutionary trends. Advances in non-invasive imaging technology provide high-resolution data on internal dental morphology (enamel thickness, tissue proportions, enamel dentine junction shape) for analysis of dental morphological variation and evolution. The EU-funded VAPP project will focus on prehistoric human population dynamics and microevolution in Portugal. Late Pleistocene to mid-Holocene Portugal survived complex environmental, climatic and demographic changes, making it an ideal regional case study to address human evolution. The project will establish an open-source virtual dental anthropology data set for the region, enabling deep analysis of dental microevolution corresponding to diets and socioeconomic changes and population dynamics during transitional periods in Portuguese prehistory.

Objective

The VAPP Project will examine prehistoric human population dynamics and microevolution in Portugal through the analysis of dental morphological variation. Variation in external dental morphology (e.g. size, shape, and discrete characteristics) provides reliable data on biological affinity and relatedness within and between human populations, as well as signatures of selection on dental functional morphology related to different diets and masticatory regimes. Advances in non-invasive, virtual imaging technology provide complimentary, high-resolution data on internal dental morphology (e.g. enamel thickness, tissue proportions, enamel dentin junction shape) that address key aspects of dental morphological variation and evolution. Nevertheless, few studies have focused on how internal dental morphology varies among human populations during the Holocene, and only one Homo sapiens dentition from Portugal has been virtually analyzed to date. The prehistory of Late Pleistocene to Mid-Holocene Portugal is characterized by complex environmental, climatic, and demographic changes that significantly altered socioeconomic organization, thus making it an ideal regional case study to address human biocultural evolution through an integrated approach to internal and external dental morphology. The VAPP Project will include Upper Paleolithic humans, the last foraging populations (Mesolithic), early food-producing peoples (Neolithic), and groups associated with the emergence of social complexity and the intensification of food processing (Late Neolithic, Chalcolithic, and Bronze Age). The sampling strategy provides a nuanced perspective on dental microevolution corresponding to changing diets, socioeconomic strategies, and spatiotemporal population dynamics (e.g. migration, integration, and replacement) across crucial transitional periods in Portuguese prehistory. Notably, the VAPP Project will establish the first, open-source, virtual dental anthropology dataset for the region.

Coordinator

UNIVERSIDADE DE COIMBRA
Net EU contribution
€ 147 815,04
Address
PACO DAS ESCOLAS
3004-531 Coimbra
Portugal

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Region
Continente Centro (PT) Região de Coimbra
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Links
Total cost
€ 147 815,04