Regional Differences of Dental Microwear on the Occlusal Surface of an M2 from Neolithic Japan: A Case Study

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Teruyuki Hojo


Regional differences of dental microwear among four small areas on the heavily worn occlusal surface of a mandibular M2 of an adult male from Neolithic Japan were investigated using a scanning electron microscope (SEM). The M2 specimen was cast using a high-resolution epoxy resin under low pressure for SEM, and the cast specimen was sputter-coated with gold. Among the four regions of the M2, two (facets 3 and 9) showed higher proportions of pits (78.6% and 75.0%, respectively), and the two others (lingual marginal facet 7n, and the inner side of facet 7n) showed lower proportions of pits (5.6% and 33.3%, respectively). The two pitted regions seem to reflect the processing of hard foods, and the two other regions with higher frequencies of striations might reflect exposures to less gritty, softer foods. The variation of these pits and striations suggests that the Jomon subsisted on stone-processed hard foods, with coarse grain sizes of sand in foods that included tuberous roots, animal meats with bones, and clams. The analyses of regional differences of dental microwear will develop important ways to study tooth use and past diets.