G. Richard Scott (University of Nevada Reno, Department of Anthropology)
Ruth Burgett Jolie (Department of Anthropology, University of New Mexico)
Alaska Journal of Anthropology: vol. 6, no. 1 & 2 (2008) 253
During a dental study of medieval Norse skeletons from Greenland, Iceland, and Norway, a distinct pattern of wear was observed on twenty-two anterior teeth of twelve Greenlanders. Further examina- tion revealed that cultural notches were limited almost exclusively to settlement-period Greenlandic females interred at Thjodhild’s church (ad 1000–1150). The most likely explanation for this patterned wear revolves around the manner in which females manipulated woolen thread on their maxillary incisors and canines during the production of a coarse woolen cloth (frieze) that was generated in large amounts during the early medieval period for local consumption and export to Europe.
Anthropologists have long studied normal crown wear to evaluate the diet and dietary behavior of earlier human populations (Hinton 1981, 1982; Kieser et al. 2001; Molnar 1971, 1972; Molnar et al. 1983; Walker 1978; Walker and Erlandson 1986). Several methods have been developed to score such wear (Brothwell 1963; Dreier 1994; Murphy 1959; Scott 1979; Smith 1984) with the primary empha- sis on pattern of dentine exposure. When crown wear is a long-term product of normal food mastication, the occluding surfaces of the upper and lower anterior teeth and premolars are often worn flat, with cupping on the cusp tips where the wear breaks through the hard enamel into the softer dentine. The molars sometimes show a buccal to lingual gradient of wear in the upper molars and a lingual to buccal wear gradient in the lower molars due to a side- to-side rotary chewing motion (Smith 1986). However, whether normal wear is flat or angled, it is normally evi- dent that it is primarily a result of normal mastication, with varying contributions of attrition (tooth-on-tooth contact) and abrasion (foreign particles in food) (Hillson 1996; Scott and Turner 1988).