Dietary Transition in Late Holocene Eastern North America: The Orofacial Record of Masticatory Function, Nutritional Quality, and Health in Maize Farmers
Clark Spencer Larsen
This chapter presents an overview of the record of reconstructing and interpreting diet from the study of craniofacial morphology and teeth, especially as the orofacial record pertains to masticatory function, nutritional quality, and health. This record is an essential element of the study of diet as it is represented in the archaeological past. Analysis of the orofacial skeleton from eastern North America reveals temporal trends relating to or arising from the introduction and intensification of farming based on plant cultigens, especially maize. These trends are characterized as including (1) reduction of facial robusticity and occlusal surface wear; (2) increase in growth disruption owing to poor-quality nutrition; and (3) increased prevalence of dental caries and related pathology caused by focus on plant carbohydrates.