Teeth are the most durable parts of the human body and provide information on a number of aspects of an individual’s life, such as their diet, their physical health and their movement across the landscape. Analyzing "baby teeth" may be a key method to identify children and their relatives, allowing researchers to explore family dynamics in the past.
Kathleen Paul, a doctoral student in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, will defend her dissertation, "Developing an Infrastructure for Biodistance Research Using Deciduous Dental Phenotypes." Her committee members are professor Christopher Stojanowski (chair), associate professor Gary Schwartz, Regents' Professor Jane Buikstra and associate professor Jesse Taylor.
Bioarchaeologists often use dental data and spatial analysis of cemeteries to infer the biological and social structure of ancient communities. This approach is commonly referred to as biological distance (“biodistance”) analysis. While permanent crown data feature prominently in these efforts, few studies have verified the accuracy of biodistance methods for recognizing child relatives using deciduous teeth. Thus, as subadults comprise an essential demographic subset of mortuary assemblages, deciduous phenotypes may represent a critical but underutilized source of information on the underlying genetic structure of past populations. The goal of the dissertation is to quantitatively analyze the developmental program underlying deciduous phenotypes and to evaluate their performance in accurately reconstructing known genealogical relationships. This project quantifies morphological variation of deciduous and permanent tooth crowns from stone dental casts representing individuals of known pedigree deriving from three distinct populations: European Canadians, European Australians and Aboriginal Australians.