Dentitions, Distance, and Difficulty: A Comparison of Two Statistical Techniques for Dental Morphological Data

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Heather Joy Hecht Edgar


One of the main uses of dental morphological data is to study patterns of affinities among populations. Many different approaches to this purpose are available, each one having its own strengths and weaknesses. For this study, observations were made of the morphology of 614 African American and 327 European American dentitions (n = 941). Each of these samples was divided into three groups based on the time in which they lived. Affinities among the resulting six groups were estimated based on the frequencies of dental morphological characteristics, by the use of both the Mean Measure of Divergence and a Pseudo-Mahalanobis’ D2. The results of these analyses are compared using a Procrustes transformation that rotates and scales coordinates derived from distances until achieving the best fit. The two statistics produce similar, although not identical results. The appropriate use and relative value of each approach is discussed.