Dental Analysis of Archaic and Late Prehistoric Northwestern Great Plains Native Americans
AuthorWinn, Jacob Robert
AdvisorScott, George R.
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Archaeological evidence suggests Archaic and late Prehistoric Native Americans of the Northwestern Great Plains practiced similar hunting and gathering lifestyles. The only features that distinguish the two eras archaeologically are the shift from atlatl to bow-and-arrow technology and an increase in the number of bison jumps. Little is known about the region's inhabitants, other than what has been found from material culture remains. Skeletal remains offer an additional line of evidence to investigate Native American life on the Northwestern Plains. Accordingly, a dental investigation has been conducted to test and complement archaeological interpretations. The dental investigation addresses the subsistence strategies, oral health, and biological affinity of the inhabitants of the Northwestern Plains. The investigation of dentition confirms archaeologically derived interpretations of hunting and gathering lifestyles using evidence from antemortem tooth loss (AMTL), caries, abscesses, attrition and chipping frequencies. Although this investigation shows that dietary behavior and oral health varied little between time periods, there were significant dental differences between males and females. A comparison of the sexes shows that while consumption of cariogenic carbohydrates and activities that lead to chipping are similar, AMTL, attrition, and abscessing indicate differences in behavior and oral health. Further, AMTL and abscessing are related to attrition. This relationship may have made females more susceptible to poor oral health and lower their overall health relative to males. Additionally, observations of dental morphology were conducted to test biological affinity. Although sample sizes for any given crown trait are small because of pronounced tooth wear, it is evident that the Northwestern Plains sample demonstrated morphological frequencies within the range found for other Sino-American groups.