Profiling Metabolic Stress in Medieval Denmark: An Analysis of Internal and External Enamel Defects Public Deposited

Downloadable Content

Download PDF
Last Modified
  • March 19, 2019
  • Reeves, Marianne E.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Anthropology
  • The purpose of this study was to assess the prevalence of both types of enamel defects and to determining the timing of each, based on a population-specific model of permanent mandibular canine crown growth (after Simpson, 1999). Analysis of n=410 canine teeth from two Catholic friary cemeteries in medieval Denmark, the Black and Gray Friars, revealed that 96% of individuals had 1 or more surface defects. In a subsample of n=63 thin-sectioned canines, only 25% showed evidence of 1 or more pathological striae. The population model revealed a non-linear pattern of canine crown growth, with growth slowing as the cervix was reached. Duration of crown growth was found to be 50.6 months, shorter than in some previous estimates for modern humans. The peak prevalence of microdefects occurred between 20 and 40 months, overlapping with surface defects, but also occurring in infancy prior to one year of age. Overall, it was found that: (1) PS did occur in infancy, expanding the stress profile window to include the earliest period of canine growth, (2) PS prevalence was unexpectedly lower and surface defects, higher, than in other archaeological populations, and (3) comparison of the distance functions (representing enamel growth geometry) were found to be significantly different from Simpson's (1999) equation. While the primary contribution of the study was methodological in assessing hidden cuspal enamel for defects and using a population-specific model for timing those defects, the methods allow greater understanding about the stressors that affected childhood growth in an extremely tumultuous time in Danish history. Likely to have been critical in causing acute and chronic stress in Denmark are not only waves of infectious disease, but also the periodic famines throughout the medieval period. Weaning stress (including weanling diarrhea) is also a likely candidate for growth disruption in the samples analyzed here, as weaning represents a significant dietary transition in infants and toddlers.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Hutchinson, Dale L.
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Graduation year
  • 2013

This work has no parents.