Current Anthropology 1996

Lillie, M.C Mesolithic and Neolithic Populations of Ukraine: Indications of Diet from Dental Pathology. Current Anthropology, 1996. vol. 37(1):135-142

The larger intellectual concern that frames M.C Lillie’s research was influenced by a growing interest concerning and “East-West dichotomy” that spoke of possible pathological markers on archaeological skeletal remains. Mikklejohn and Zvelebil provided an initial survey on the evidence that indicated that Western Mediterranean regions increased incidence of caries was accompanied by the increased intake of starch versus the Southern Baltic regions and the Yugoslavian Iron Gates where high incidence of calculus and enamel hypoplasias seemed to point towards higher levels of protein based diets.

M.C. Lillie set to determine whether this dichotomy was reflected in the Mesolithic and Neolithic populations of Ukraine by considering dental samples of the Mesolithic versus the Neolithic period to resolve whether dietary factors were of primary significance in the absence of caries, considering that there existed a significant amount of evidence of fermentable carbohydrates –for instance, starch- as responsible of the prevalence of caries.

According to M.C. Lillie the absence of evidence of caries and the consistent occurrence of calculus and enamel hypoplasias support the observation that a primarily meat-oriented and a high protein diet was present during the Neolithic and Mesolithic period when subsistence economy remained relatively stable. The evidence is presented by the analysis of the presence or absence of caries, calculus deposition and enamel hypoplasia.The Dnieper Rapids region contains large settings of cemeteries relating to both the Mesolithic and Neolithic times from where evidence was presented by using the “Seriaton method” whereby a site-specific of “perfect male” and “perfect female” were chosen as type specimens and subsequent comparisons were made of these “type” individuals. The presence or absence of caries was observed at the macroscopic level for each tooth, using a sample consisting of 820 teeth from 36 individuals of the Neolithic period. Calculus deposition was recorded by reporting frequencies as both the percentage of individuals of teeth affected by calculus deposition at each cemetery, while Enamel Hypoplasia observations were made at the macroscopic level by means of using a dental probe to aid identification.

According to the results based on this collected data, caries was absent in the skeletal series analyzed. Calculus deposition appeared to be at low level of alveolar resorption that occurred throughout the dental series analyzed. Concerning the data on Enamel Hypoplasias, low levels of it were visible on individuals from both periods. The available data suggests dietary shifts culminating in the Neolithic period with generally a hunter-gatherer pastoralist diet.

AMANDA FERNANDEZ York University (Maggie MacDonald)