Dental evidence for wild tuber processing among Titicaca Basin foragers 7000 ybp

James T. Watson, Randall Haas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Objectives: The objective of this work is to characterize dental wear in a skeletal sample dating to the Middle/Late Archaic period transition (8,000-6,700 cal. B.P.) from the Lake Titicaca Basin, Peru to better define subsistence behaviors of foragers prior to incipient sedentism and food production. Materials and Methods: The dental sample consists of 251 teeth from 11 individuals recovered from the site of Soro Mik'aya Patjxa (SMP), the earliest securely dated burial assemblage in the Lake Titicaca Basin and the only burial assemblage in the region from an unequivocal forager context. Occlusal surface wear was quantified according to Smith (1984) and Scott (1979a) to characterize diversity within the site and to facilitate comparison with other foraging groups worldwide. General linear modeling was used to assess observation error and principal axis analysis was used to compare molar wear rates and angles. Teeth were also examined for caries and specialized wear. Results: Occlusal surface attrition is generally heavy across the dental arcade and tends to be flat among posterior teeth. Only one carious lesion was observed. Five of the 11 individuals exhibit lingual surface attrition of the maxillary anterior teeth (LSAMAT). Discussion: Tooth wear rates, molar wear plane, and caries rates are consistent with terrestrial foraging and a diverse diet. The presence of LSAMAT indicates tuber processing. The results therefore contribute critical new data toward our understanding of forager diet in the Altiplano prior to plant and animal domestication in the south-central Andes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-130
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2017


  • Andes
  • foraging
  • tooth wear
  • tuber processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology


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