How are teeth better than bone? An investigation of dental tissue diagenesis and state of preservation at a histological scale (with photo catalogue)

Hege I. Hollund1, Miranda M.E. Jans2 and Henk Kars3

1. Museum of Archaeology, University of Stavanger, 4036 Stavanger, Norway. Email: hege.hollund@uis.no (0000-0002-1274-669X)
2. Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command Central Identification Laboratory, 310 Worchester Ave, Joint Base-Pearl Harbor-Hickam, HI 96853, USA Miranda.Jans.nl@jpac.pacom.mil
3. Institute for Geo- and Bioarchaeology, VU University, De Boelelaan 1085, 1081 HV, Amsterdam, The Netherlands h.kars@vu.nl

Cite this as: Hollund, H., Jans, M.M.E and Kars, H. (2014). How are teeth better than bone? An investigation of dental tissue diagenesis and state of preservation at a histological scale (with photo catalogue). Internet Archaeology, (36). https://doi.org/10.11141/ia.36.7

Summary

Scanned thin-section of a tooth sample

Teeth are often the preferred substrate for isotopic and genetic assays in archaeological research. Teeth can yield isotopic signals from different periods of an individual's lifetime, useful in dietary reconstruction, climate research, and investigation into mobility of people and animals in the past. Additionally, it is generally accepted that teeth preserve biomolecules (e.g. DNA, collagen) and isotopic signals better. Despite the importance of dental tissue in archaeological research, no systematic study has been carried out concerning diagenetic alterations at histological scale. This article reports the results of a thorough histological characterisation of post-mortem alterations observed in 34 ancient teeth. Such alterations are well described in bone whereas similar analyses of teeth are scant and highlight the need for diagenetic screening before analysis. Micrographs have been made, illustrating typical diagenetic features occurring within the dental tissues cementum, dentine and enamel including bioerosion, cracking, etching and staining. The photo catalogue produced can be used within fields such as archaeology, forensics and palaeontology.

Go to Table of Contents.

Features

Funding