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Am J Phys Anthropol. 2007 Dec;134(4):501-12.

Dental caries prevalence as evidence for agriculture and subsistence variation during the Yayoi period in prehistoric Japan: biocultural interpretations of an economy in transition.

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Department of Anthropology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210-1364, USA.


The Yayoi period represents the earliest point of agricultural dependence in Japan, dating from approximately 2500 BP to AD 300. Yayoi period people consumed wet-rice as a primary subsistence base. This article uses dental caries prevalence to interpret the biocultural implications of agriculture among these people by testing the following hypotheses: 1) Yayoi period agriculturalists had greater frequencies of carious teeth than Jomon period foragers, 2) regional variation in carious tooth frequencies will be observed among Yayoi period agriculturalists, while 3) variation in carious tooth frequencies will be observed between male and female agriculturalists. Statistically significant differences in carious teeth were observed between the agriculturalists from Southern Honshu and all other samples. These differences suggest greater reliance on cariogenic plants among farmers from Southern Honshu and are consistent with an agricultural economy. The people of the Yayoi period from Tanegashima Island and Northern Kyushu did not have significantly different carious tooth frequencies compared to Jomon period foragers. This suggests that rice alone was not a more cariogenic dietary substance than those consumed by Jomon period foragers but a cariogenic food nonetheless. Dietary heterogeneity between the prehistoric people of the Yayoi period from Southern Honshu and those from Northern Kyushu and Tanegashima Island is also inferred from these differences. Significantly greater frequencies of carious teeth among older aged Yayoi period females compared with males suggest dietary differences between the sexes.

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