Permanent molar trait expression in the Late Neolithic cave burials of the Meuse Basin, Belgium

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Frank L'Engle Williams
Rebecca George https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3901-1677

Abstract

At least 250 cave burials along the Meuse river basin of Belgium yield prehistoric remains, and most date from the Late Neolithic period. Several have been radiocarbon dated, including the early/late Neolithic deposits of Hastière Caverne M and Hastière Trou Garçon C and the final/late Neolithic caves of Sclaigneaux and Bois Madame. An additional collective burial, Maurenne Caverne de la Cave is radiocarbon dated to the Middle Neolithic and final/late Neolithic periods, circa 4,635 to 3,830 BP, encompassing the range of dates for the other collective burials. Most individuals are represented by fragmentary gnathic remains with in situ dental elements. Arizona State University Dental Anthropology System (ASUDAS) scores of permanent molars are employed to examine whether differences within and between the caves exist, and whether chronology and ecogeography can account for the variation in traits. The final/late Neolithic cave of Sclaigneaux, the most geographically distinct cave burial, and Hastière Caverne M, possibly the earliest site, emerge as the most distinctive. The final/late Neolithic sites of Sclaigneaux and Bois Madame exhibit the greatest variability of trait expression. These results bear on the mobility and continuity of human groups in Belgium during the terminus of the Neolithic prior to the Bronze Age.

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