Skip to main content

Life histories of the Neolithic Transition: Estimating and modelling European life history events and human fertility rates

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - EUROLIFE (Life histories of the Neolithic Transition: Estimating and modelling European life history events and human fertility rates)

Reporting period: 2015-12-07 to 2017-12-06

Some studies on living humans and great apes have indicated that life-history parameters (LHP) such as pregnancies, skeletal trauma, and renal disease can be identified from hypomineralized growth layers of tooth cementum. The explanation offered was that lack of available calcium at the mineralization front of the cementum during those “crisis” events causes formation of a hypomineralized growth layer. By observing different visual effects of those layers, hypomineralized ones can be detected, as they appear to be broader, wider and darker under optical magnification with transmuted light. However, use of tooth cementum growth layers as an individual age estimation method and as a life history identification aid remains sporadic, with results often carefully qualified or disputed.
Project EUROLIFE’s primary aim was to develop and test a new method for establishing human LHPs from teeth microstructure.
To do so, the project investigated if chemical composition and degree of mineralization of hydroxyapatite of tooth cementum is more reliable source of data for detection of the important LHP from human teeth then just their visual effects as proposed in previous studies. Results of this project’s novel approach significantly increased our ability to detect and interpret how variation in tooth cementum mineralization may relate to LHPs such as pregnancies. Furthermore, the project’s results demonstrate that much more methodological and interpretative caution is required by life-history researchers. Any temptation to apply superficially plausible life-history data obtained from poorly explored cases must be resisted until the underlying processes are fully understood. Many aspects of cementum research remain in their infancy. This topic requires significantly more clinical research before it can be applied to archaeological case-studies.
Obtaining distribution maps of the molecular ions of Ca+ and HAp+.