Postgraduate Research Archaeology Symposium

Samantha Field (2016)

Keywords: Bioarchaeology, dental wear, dental anthropology, age at death, human skeletal remains,


In archaeological environments teeth are the most resistant part of the skeleton to degradation & decomposition. Throughout life, they experience continuous attritional wear and this rate of tooth wear offers potential for age assessment within a given population.

The most commonly method employed using dental wear for assessing adult ages in archaeological populations from Britain was produced by Brothwell (1963). This method was development using a poorly dated archaeological sample of unclear size and does not consider variation over time and dietary changes. However, alternative aging methods rely on preservation of fragile skeletal elements or are destructive, expensive or complex & time consuming to conduct. Therefore Brothwell’s method of age estimation is still widely used in British skeletal studies.

The aim of this project is to explore how the Brothwell (1963) method of assessing age from occlusal tooth wear patterns can be refined, and improved upon, to increase reliability and precision. This presentation will discuss the first step of this process with the application of an ordinal scale and a qualitative measurement to a series of Anglo-Saxon specimens. It is thought that by making alterations and additions to the Brothwell scale the pattern of dental wear can be recorded more effectively, including observing wear patterns before dentine exposure is evident. The Mays et al. (1995) method for measuring tooth crown height will also be applied to the preliminary method as an attempt to quantify this wear.