Dental Transfigurement and its Potential for Explaining the Evolution of Post-Archaic Indian Culture in the American Southwest

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Christy G. Turner II


The term "dental transfirgurement" is suggested for the non-therapeutic modification of prehistoric teeth. In North America, prehistoric dental transfigurement was a common practice only in Mesoamerica. Hence, among the few explanations possible for the rare occurrences of dental transfigurement in the prehistoric American Southwest, the msot likely one is migration, that is, the actual presence of Mesoamericans who traveled to and subsequently died in the American Southwest. One case, especially, may contribute to understanding the rapid development of the large planned prehistoric towns in and around Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. This case, the oldest example of prehistoric American Southwest dental transfigurement known so far, was part of a mass burial in one of the rooms that N. M. Judd excavated at Pueblo Bonito - a room that Judd believed had been built during the initial phase of construction of this great Chacoan town.