Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Monograph

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Anthropology

Supervisor

Molto, Joseph E.

Abstract

This dissertation investigates the use of dental anthropological methods for estimating chronological age-at-death in ancient Egypt, and determines whether these methods can be improved. Tooth calcification, emergence and eruption standards are time honoured in their ability to accurately age subadults though they are compromised by the fact that populations and the sexes vary in their developmental timing. Determining sex in subadults, particularly in the infant and child cohorts, in all populations is not possible, though advances in ancient DNA methods hold promise. This dissertation provides a feasible and ethical model for developing a sex-and region-specific standard for age estimation of subadults for use on ancient Egyptian samples.This method rectifies methodological errors affecting the accuracy of pre-existing standards; and thus, demonstrates that macroscopic subadult dental age estimation methods can be improved.

Moreover, using a photographic sample of occlusal dentition from the Kellis 2 cemetery population in Roman Period Egypt, a new method for adult dental age estimation is designed and tested. To this end, the percentages of exposed occlusal dentine in first and second molars were calculated through photogrammetry, in a technique shown to have little intra- and inter-observer error. These data showed a strong linear correlation with skeletal age estimates, and varied significantly from the popular Brothwell (1963a) standard for age estimation based on dental wear. Dental caries and antemortem tooth loss were similarly tested for correlation with skeletal age, with only antemortem tooth loss showing a strong correlation. As a result, linear regression models were designed and tested for quantified first and second molar wear as well as antemortem tooth loss. Multiple regression models for all combinations of these dental indicators of age were also designed and tested. Although it is also recommended that these models are revised with expanded reference samples, these standards improve the ability to estimate age in individuals from the Kellis 2 cemetery population. It is recommended that these standards are tested and modified for use on geographically- and temporally-diverse populations to determine the boundaries of its application beyond a single population sample.

In summary, this study rejects the null hypothesis (Ho): ‘Current dental age estimation standards cannot be improved’. Consequently, this dissertation serves to encourage the creation of more accurate and precise subadult and adult macroscopic dental age estimation standards.

Summary for Lay Audience

This dissertation investigates the use of dental anthropological methods for estimating age-at-death in subadult and adult ancient Egyptians, and their potential for improvement. Dental developmental standards are time honoured in their ability to accurately age subadults. Unfortunately, they are compromised by the fact that developmental timing can vary among populations and between the sexes. This dissertation presents an improved method for developing a region- and sex-specific standard for age estimation of subadult Egyptians. This feasible and ethical method rectifies methodological errors affecting the accuracy of pre-existing subadult dental aging standards. This demonstrates potential for improved age estimation in subadults.

Using a photographic sample of occlusal dentition from the Roman Period Kellis 2 cemetery in Egypt, a new method for adult dental age estimation is also designed and tested. To this end, dental wear is quantified through photogrammetry in first and second molars. These data were used to create linear regression models that can be used to predict age based on dental wear. These models vary significantly from the popular Brothwell (1963a) standard for age estimation based on dental wear. Dental caries and antemortem tooth loss were similarly tested for correlation with skeletal age, with only antemortem tooth loss showing a strong correlation. Consequently, linear regression models were also designed and tested for antemortem tooth loss. Multiple regression models were also created to incorporate all combinations of these dental indicators of age in an effort to increase accuracy. Unfortunately, in some cases, the small sample sizes applicable to multiple regression models indicate that these models should be revised with expanded reference samples. Nevertheless, these standards improve the ability to age adults from Kellis 2 cemetery population. In future, it is recommended that these standards are tested and modified for use on geographically- and temporally-diverse populations to test its applicability beyond a single cemetery population.

In summary, this dissertation rejects the null hypothesis (Ho): ‘Current dental age estimation standards cannot be improved’. Consequently, this dissertation serves to encourage the creation of more accurate and precise user-friendly subadult and adult macroscopic dental age estimation standards.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Appendix 7 - Data.xlsx (106 kB)
Appendix 7: Raw Data

Available for download on Friday, April 30, 2021

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