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Durham e-Theses
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Dental anthropology investigations of behaviour and society in some historic Arctic/Sub-Arctic samples

MCELVANEY, CHARLOTTE,SELENE (2023) Dental anthropology investigations of behaviour and society in some historic Arctic/Sub-Arctic samples. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



The thesis is a dental anthropological study of Arctic/Sub-Arctic samples utilising oral environmental
health indicators (caries, calculus, periodontal disease), dental wear, craniofacial trauma (CFT),
paramasticatory dental activities (PMDA) and cultural identifiers to analyse labour and dietary divisions,
and how teeth were used as tools and cultural identifiers. The study was organised ecogeographically, as the
mostly historically collected remains meant temporal distinctions were largely impossible, bar being preEuropean contact. Contextualisation utilised ethnohistoric accounts, published bioarchaeological,
archaeological and clinical studies, and a PMDA recording method, developed here. A total of 1540
individuals were analysed from Siberia, the Aleutian Islands, Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. Arctic/SubArctic populations have been the focus of ethnohistoric, bioarchaeological, and clinical studies, but
misconceptions remain regarding homogeneity. Whilst many cultures extended across the ecogeographic
range of Arctic/Sub-Arctic populations, the divergent ecogeographies should result in distinct diet, labour,
PMDA, and cultural identification.

The oral environmental health indicators show overall, homogenously good oral health but were too
infrequent for dietary divisions assessment. Whilst the wear results were similarly non-distinct for the adults
for labour divisions, they illustrated the age PMDA began (5.5-10.5-years-old) when analysed in conjunction
with the CFT and PMDA results. The younger age (5.5-years-old) coincides with development of adult
levels of coordination and balance, and improved musculature control from changes in motor learning
abilities. The same type of PMDA was found to continue into adulthood in one sample (West Greenland).
Further distinct behaviours were found in another sample (Amaknak Island), as wear is absent in subadults,
but extensive wear is present in the adults.

The analysis also showed two distinct cultural identification configurations – wearing labrets and ablation
– with a demographic distribution and restricted to the Aleutian Islands. Ablation has been reported in
these populations, but not accepted by most researchers. The analysis found evidence that females and
males had different extraction methods and placements of ablation. In males, teeth were forcefully removed
from the socket, with the roots remaining, followed by alveolar bone resorption. The females experienced
a less traumatic extraction method, as roots remaining is absent. Evidence of wearing labrets inferior to the
labia inferior oris was found. The analysis also found an unreported labret placement, being superior to the
labia superior oris. The females and males have different patterns of wearing labrets, with females wearing
labrets laterally, and the males wearing one medially, both superior to the labia superior oris. The study
provides an immense amount of information on Arctic/Sub-Arctic samples, the homogenous oral health
environment, and the distinct PMDA and cultural identifiers.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Archaeology, Department of
Thesis Date:2023
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:17 Jul 2023 10:41

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