Dental microwear texture analysis of Homo sapiens sapiens: Foragers, farmers, and pastoralists

Christopher W. Schmidt, Ashley Remy, Rebecca Van Sessen, John Willman, Kristin Krueger, Rachel Scott, Patrick Mahoney, Jeremy Beach, Jaqueline McKinley, Ruggero D'Anastasio, Laura Chiu, Michele Buzon, J. Rocco De Gregory, Susan Sheridan, Jacqueline Eng, James Watson, Haagen Klaus, Pedro Da-Gloria, Jeremy Wilson, Abigail StonePaul Sereno, Jessica Droke, Rose Perash, Christopher Stojanowski, Nicholas Herrmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Objectives: The current study seeks to determine if a sample of foragers, farmers, and pastoralists are distinguishable based on their dental microwear texture signatures. Materials and methods: The study included a sample of 719 individuals from 51 archeological sites (450 farmers, 192 foragers, 77 pastoralists). All were over age 12 and sexes were pooled. Using a Sensofar® white-light confocal profiler we collected dental microwear texture analysis (DMTA) data from a single first or second molar from each individual. We leveled and cleaned data clouds following standard procedures and analyzed the data with Sfrax® and Toothfrax® software. The DMTA variables were complexity and anisotropy. Statistics included ANOVA with partial eta squared and Hedges's g. We also performed a follow-up K-means cluster analysis. Results: We found significant differences between foragers and farmers and pastoralists for complexity and anisotropy, with foragers having greater complexity than either the farmers or the pastoralists. The farmers and pastoralists had greater anisotropy than the foragers. The Old World foragers had significantly higher anisotropy values than New World foragers. Old and New World farmers did not differ. Among the Old World farmers, those dating from the Neolithic through the Late Bronze Age had higher complexity values than those from the Iron Age through the medieval period. The cluster analysis discerned foragers and farmers but also indicated similarity between hard food foragers and hard food farmers. Discussion: Our findings reaffirm that DMTA is capable of distinguishing human diets. We found that foragers and farmers, in particular, differ in their microwear signatures across the globe. There are some exceptions, but nothing that would be unexpected given the range of human diets and food preparation techniques. This study indicates that in general DMTA is an efficacious means of paleodietary reconstruction in humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-226
Number of pages20
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2019


  • archeology
  • diet
  • subsistence
  • teeth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology


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