Conference paper Open Access

Can we detect prehistoric pregnancies? Potential of the tooth cementum analysis for the reconstruction of fertility

Penezić, Kristina; Porčić, Marko; Ristović, Filip; Stefanović, Sofija

The importance of fertility in paleodemography cannot be overemphasized as it is the major determinant of preindustrial population dynamics and the crucial concept in anthropological and archaeological theory of demographic transitions. The possibility that a permanent record of the number pregnancies and age of mother at which the pregnancies occurred is preserved at the microscopic level in the tooth cementum may be of fundamental importance for further studies of fertility and motherhood. Certain life-events have been shown to interfere with the deposition of tooth cementum, among which pregnancy was mentioned.
This important fact was however only referred to in a limited number of publications. In order to gain more specific knowledge of theses occurrences we conducted a small-scale clinical study focusing on the detection of pregnancies recorded in the tooth cementum. Results obtained from this study are used for further interpretation of TCA (Tooth cementum annulation) analysis applied on a sample of teeth from archaeological contexts. All samples derived from archaeological sites are from individuals dating either to the Mesolithic or Neolithic period in the Central Balkan area. The aim of this study is to evaluate results from the clinical study and compare it to the results obtained from the archaeological sample. In this manner, we hope to tackle the complex question of pregnancies, fertility rates, and paleodemography at the advent of the Neolithic period.

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