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Anterior dental microwear texture analysis of the Krapina Neandertals

Central European Journal of Geosciences

Abstract

Some Neandertal anterior teeth show unusual and excessive gross wear, commonly explained by non-dietary anterior tooth use, or using the anterior dentition as a tool, clamp, or third hand. This alternate use is inferred from aboriginal arctic populations, who used their front teeth in this manner. Here we examine anterior dental microwear textures of the Krapina Neandertals to test this hypothesis and further analyze tooth use in these hominins.

Microwear textures from 17 Krapina Dental People were collected by white-light confocal profilometry using a 100x objective lens. Four adjacent scans were generated, totaling an area of 204x276 μm, and were analyzed using Toothfrax and SFrax SSFA software packages. The Neandertals were compared to six bioarchaeological/ethnographic samples with reported variation in diet, abrasive load, and non-dietary anterior tooth use.

Results indicate that Krapina anterior teeth lack extreme microwear textures expected of hominins exposed to heavy abrasives or those that regularly generated high stresses associated with intense use of the front teeth as tools. Krapina hominins have microwear attributes in common with Coast Tsimshian, Aleut, and Puye Pueblo samples. Collectively, this suggests that the Krapina Neandertals faced moderate abrasive loads and only periodically used their anterior teeth as tools for non-diet related behaviors.

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Correspondence to Kristin L. Krueger.

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Krueger, K.L., Ungar, P.S. Anterior dental microwear texture analysis of the Krapina Neandertals. cent.eur.j.geo. 4, 651–662 (2012). https://doi.org/10.2478/s13533-012-0111-1

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