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Inferring childhood dietary maturation using buccal and occlusal deciduous molar microwear: a case study from the recent prehistory of the Iberian Peninsula

  • Hernando, Raquel1, 2
  • Willman, John C.1, 2
  • Vergès, Josep Maria1, 2
  • Vaquero, Manuel1, 2
  • Alonso, Susana1, 2
  • Oms, Xavier3
  • Cebrià, Artur3
  • Morales, Juan Ignacio3
  • Lozano, Marina1, 2
  • 1 IPHES. Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social. Zona Educacional 4, Edifici W3, Campus Sescelades, Tarragona, 43007, Spain , Tarragona (Spain)
  • 2 Àrea de Prehistòria, Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV), Avinguda de Catalunya 35, Tarragona, 43002, Spain , Tarragona (Spain)
  • 3 Universitat de Barcelona, C/ Montalegre 6-8, Barcelona, 08001, Spain , Barcelona (Spain)
Published Article
Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences
Springer Berlin Heidelberg
Publication Date
Jan 14, 2020
DOI: 10.1007/s12520-019-00997-z
Springer Nature


Over the last years, the knowledge of the children’s diet is a topic of growing interest in dental anthropology. Our aim seeks to establish patterns of interpopulation and intrapopulation variability in dietary microwear among children from four Iberian sites dated to the Neolithic through Bronze Age. Buccal and occlusal surfaces are compared to assess whether their differential rates of microwear turnover correspond with dietary differences linked to social and biological maturation (e.g., weaning and shifts to adult-like diets). This study is based on the analysis of 46 deciduous molars (Udm1, Udm2, and Ldm2). Occlusal and buccal surfaces were observed using an environmental scanning electron microscope (ESEM) following standard microwear methodologies. The results show that from an interpopulation perspective, there are differences in the number of buccal scratches between Valdavara and the other sites. From an intrapopulation perspective, there was a greater number of buccal striations in the older age category from Cova de la Guineu and more occlusal pitting in the older age category from Cova dels Galls Carboners. This study shows the utility of the combined approach to buccal and occlusal microwear analysis as a means of understanding child dietary maturation in prehistory, showing that feeding practices and/or food choice can explain differences between specific age categories of children in addition to differences between archeological sites.

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