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Am J Phys Anthropol. 1992 Feb;87(2):133-50.

Dental paleopathology and agricultural intensification in south Asia: new evidence from Bronze Age Harappa.

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Department of Anthropology, University of Oregon, Eugene 97403.


Patterns of dental disease among Bronze Age people of the Indus Valley Civilization are currently based on early and incomplete reports by non-specialists. This deficiency precludes accurate diachronic analysis of dental disease and its relationship with increasing agriculturalism in the Indian subcontinent. The objective of this paper is to document prevalence of dental disease at Harappa (2500-2000 B.C.), Punjab Province, Pakistan, comparatively evaluate the Harappan dental pathology profile, and use these data to assess theories regarding the dental health consequences of increasingly intensive agricultural dependence. Pathological conditions of the dentition included in the study are abscesses, ante-mortem tooth loss (AMTL), calculus, caries, hypoplasia, hypercementosis, pulp chamber exposure, and alveolar resorption. The Harappan dentition exhibits a dental pathology profile typical of a population whose subsistence base is agriculture. Dental caries at Harappa are present in 6.8% (n = 751) of the teeth and 43.6% (n = 39) of the more completely preserved dental specimens. The use of a caries correction factor is recommended to permit an estimate of caries induced AMTL in calculating the caries prevalence. All dental lesions are present at higher rates in this Harappan study sample than were reported in previous investigations, and important differences in prevalence of dental disease occur between the genders. Prevalence of dental disease increases in the greater Indus Valley as subsistence becomes more intensive and as food preparation and storage technology becomes more efficient.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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