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Assessing the application of tooth cementum annulation relative to macroscopic aging techniques in an archeological sample

HOMO - Journal of Comparative Human Biology
DOI: 10.1016/j.jchb.2012.11.001
  • Archaeology
  • Biology
  • Medicine


Abstract The analysis of human skeletal remains is frequently impeded by the lack of adequately preserved morphological markers on which to base age estimation, particularly in archeological contexts. Therefore, histological methods such as tooth cementum annulation analysis can be useful for extracting reliable age estimates from poorly preserved skeletons, if they produce results corresponding to morphologically based, multifactorial assessments. In order to test this presumption, this study compares tooth cementum annulation (TCA) with macroscopic age estimation results incorporating the Brooks–Suchey pubic symphysis and the Buckberry–Chamberlain revised auricular surface methods, as well as Brothwell's guidelines for analyzing dental attrition. Undecalcified, polished, and unstained transverse thin sections viewed using standard light microscopy, with decentered phase contrast microscopy in cases of poorly delineated cementum annulations, were used for TCA counts. Age estimates were applied independently on the late medieval archeological Box Lane cemetery assemblage from Pontefract, England, to analyze their measure of correspondence and to assess whether data produced by a single histological technique are comparable to information pooled from multiple morphological age markers. Spearman's rank correlation tests resulted in a significant association between TCA and morphological age estimates. Further studies using larger samples of known age material would help to improve our understanding of TCA age estimation performance relative to macroscopic age assessment as well as continued refinement and standardization of cementum sectioning, which is suggested to impact annulation visibility.

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