Dental morphology of deciduous molars from late Neolithic Caves of the Meuse River Basin of Belgium Neolithic deciduous dental traits

Main Article Content

Frank L'Engle Williams
Rebecca L George, MA
Caroline Polet, PhD


Nearly 200 karstic caves of the Meuse River Basin of Belgium preserve collective burials dated to the Late Neolithic. The gnathic remains from five well preserved sites provide an opportunity to explore potential relationship among these cave burials.

The cave burials of Hastière Caverne M, Hastière Trou Garçon C, Maurenne Caverne de la Cave, Sclaigneaux and Bois Madame are dated to circa 4,635 to 3,830 years BP. Dental casts from mandibular and maxillary deciduous molars are scored using the ASUDAS.

Carabelli’s trait varies from a small, Y-shaped depression to a full cusp, and the largest ones are found at Hastière Caverne M. The mandibular first molars have three to five cusps and the second molars have five, with one instance of six cusps at Bois Madame, which exceeds the range of variation for other dental traits.  The hypoconulid ranges from small to very large. A metaconulid is absent or small.          

Although the results are contingent on idiosyncratic preservation, differences in the frequencies of traits exist between the earlier cave burial from Hastière Caverne M and the late/final Neolithic burials of Sclaigneaux and Bois Madame, the latter of which is the most variable in the expression of dental traits. 



Bailey S.E., Hublin J.-J. (2006). Dental remains from the Grotte du Renne at Arcy-sur-Cure (Yonne). Journal of Human Evolution, 50, 485–508.
Bronk-Ramsey C., Higham T.F.G., Owen D.C., Pike W.G., Hedges R.E.M. (2002). Radiocarbon dates from the Oxford AMS system: datelist 31. Archaeometry, 44(3) Supplement 1:1–149.
Dumbruch I. (2003). Edute du site de l’abri-sous-roche du “Bois-Madame”, Néolithique, à Arbre, dans la vallée du Burnot (Province de Namur). Etude anthropologique et archéologique, Volume I et II. MA thesis, Université Libre de Bruxelles.
Dumbruch I. (2007). Le Site de l'Abri-sous-Roche du "Bois-Madame" à Arbre (Province de Namur, Belgique). Archæologia Mosellana, 7, 609–612.
Edgar H.J.H., Lease L.R. (2007). Correlations between deciduous and permanent tooth morphology in a European American sample. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 133, 726–734.
Galbany J., Martínez L.M., Pérez-Pérez A. (2004). Tooth replication techniques, SEM imaging and microwear analysis in primates: methodological obstacles. Anthropologie, 42, 5–12.
García-Martin C. (2000) Reconstitution du régime alimentaire par l’étude des micro-traces d’usure dentaire. MA thesis, Université Libre de Bruxelles.
Guatelli-Steinberg D., Sciulli P.W., Edgar H.J.H. (2006). Dental fluctuating asymmetry in the Gullah: tests of hypotheses regarding developmental stability in deciduous vs. permanent and male vs. female teeth. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 129, 427–434.
Hanihara K. (1961). Criteria for classification of crown characters of the human deciduous dentition. Journal of the Anthropological Society of Nipon, 69, 27–45.
Hardin A.M., Legge S.S. (2013). Geographic variation in nonmetric dental traits of the deciduous molars of Pan and Gorilla. International Journal of Primatology, 34,1000–1019.
Hershkovitz I., Smith P., Sarig R., Quam R., Rodriguez L., Garcia R., Arsuaga J.L., Barkai R., Gopher A. (2016). Middle Pleistocene dental remains from Qesem Cave (Israel). American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 144, 575–592.
Irish J.D. (2006). Who were the ancient Egyptians? Dental affinities among Neolithic through postdynastic peoples. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 22, 529–543.
Kitagawa Y., Manabe Y., Oyamada J., Rokutanda A. (1995). Deciduous dental morphology of the prehistoric Jomon people of Japan – comparison of nonmetric characters. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 97, 101–111.
Lease L. (2013). A descriptive study of African American deciduous dentition. Dental Anthropology, 26, 45–55.
Lukacs J.F., Kuswandari S. (2009). Talon cusp in Malay primary teeth: expression, frequency, covariates and treatment needs. Anthropological Science, 117, 51–56.
Martinon-Torres M., de Castro J.M.B., Gomez-Robles A., Prado-Simon L., Arsuaga J.L. (2012). Morphological description and comparison of the dental remains from Atapuerca-Sima de los Huesos site (Spain). Journal of Human Evolution, 62, 7–58.
Orban R., Polet C., Semal P., Leguebe A. (2000). La stature des Néolithiques mosans. Bulletin de l'Institut Royal des Sciences Naturelles de Belgique, Série Sciences de la Terre, 70, 207–222.
Paepe de M. (2007). Studie van de laat-neolithische menselijke resten uit een collectief graf te Sclaigneaux (provincie Namen, B.). MA thesis, Universiteit Gent.
Paul K.S., Stojanowski C.W. (2017). Comparative performance of deciduous and permanent dental morphology in detecting biological relatives. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 164, 97–116.
Pilloud M.A., Larsen C.S. (2011). "Official" and "practical" kin: inferring social and community structure from dental phenotype at Neolithic Catalhoyuk, Turkey. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 145, 519–530.
Pilloud M.A., Edgar H.J.H., George R., Scott G.R. (2016). Dental morphology in biodistance analysis. In M. Pilloud & J. Hefner (Eds.), Biological distance analysis: forensic and bioarchaeological perspectives (pp. 109–133). San Diego: Elsevier.
Polet C. (2011). Les squelettes néolithiques découverts dans les grottes du basin mosan. In N. Cauwe, A. Hauzeur, I. Jadin, C. Polet & B. Vanmontfort (Eds.), 5200-2000 av. J.-C. premiers agriculteurs en Belgique (pp. 85–94). Éditions du Cedarc.
Scott G.R., Turner C.G. (1997). The anthropology of modern human teeth. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.
Scott G.R., Irish J.D. (2017). Human tooth crown and root morphology. Cambridge, UK, Cambridge University Press.
Semal P., García Martín C., Polet C., Richards M.P. (1999). Considération sur l'alimentation des Néolithiques du Bassin mosan: usures dentaires et analyses isotopiques du collagène osseux. Notae Praehistoricae, 19, 127–135.
Smith B.H. (1983). Dental attrition in hunter-gatherers and agriculturalists. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Michigan.
Smith B.H. (1984). Patterns of molar wear in hunter-gatherers and agriculturalists. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 63, 39–56.
Smith P., Tillier A.-M. (1989). Additional infant remains from the Mousterian Strata, Kebara Cave (Israel). In O. Bar-Yosef & B. Vandermeersch (Eds.), Investigation in South Levantine prehistory (pp. 323–335). Oxford, England: British Archaeological Reports International Series.
Toussaint M. (2007). Les sépultures Néolithiques du basin mosan Wallon et leurs relations avec les bassins de la Seine et du Rhin. Archaeologia Mosellana, 7, 507–549.
Toussainnt M., Orban R., Polet C., Semal P., Bocherens H., Masy P., García Martín C. (2001). Apports récents sur l’anthropologie des Mésolithiques et des Néolithiques mosans. Anthropologica et Préhistorica, 112, 91–105.
Turner C.G., II, Nichol C., Scott G.R. (1991). Scoring procedures for key morphological traits of the permanent dentition: The Arizona State University Dental Anthropology System. In M. A. Kelley & C. S. Larsen (Eds.), Advances in dental anthropology (pp. 13–31). New York: Wiley-Liss.
Vanderveken S. (1997). Etude anthropologique des sépultures néolithiques de Maurenne et Hastière (province de Namur). MA thesis, Université Libre de Bruxelles.
Zubova A.V., Stepanov A.D., Kuzmin Y.V. (2016). Comparative analysis of a Stone Age human tooth fragment from Khaiyrgas Cave on the Middle Lena (Yakutia, Russian Federation). Anthropological Science, 124, 135–143.