Exploring Social Inequality at Petra through Dental Pathology
Dental pathologies such as linear enamel hypoplasias (LEHs), periapical lesions (abscesses), dental calculus and caries, and antemortem tooth loss (AMTL) can indicate physiological stress during childhood development as well as reflect biocultural markers of nutrition and oral infection. Combined, they provide a powerful indicator of differential access to resources and dietary variation. This research explores the relationship between the frequencies of these pathologies and social stratification in three samples from the ancient Nabataean capital city of Petra and the surrounding hinterlands. The mortuary repertoire of Petra includes ornate monumental fac̨ade tombs surrounding the city center in addition to less elaborate shaft chamber tombs. Previous archaeological research explains these tomb variants as reflecting family groups of higher and lower social status, respectively (Perry, 2016; Schmid, Bienkowski, Fiema, & Kolb, 2012; Wadeson, 2012a, 2012b). Statistical analysis of dental pathology frequencies in 696 teeth from the non-elite tombs, 234 teeth from the elite fac̨ade tombs, and 132 teeth from a contemporary non-urban site identified statistically higher frequencies of dental calculus between the fac̨ade and shaft chamber tomb samples (χ² = 30.79, p [less than]; 0.001) and the fac̨ade and hinterland tomb samples (χ² =5.98, p=0.014). The frequency of LEHs of the selected Polar teeth were also significantly different between the fac̨ade and shaft chamber tomb samples (χ² = 18.13, p [less than]; 0.001). Additionally, the data show significantly higher frequencies of AMTL in the non-urban hinterland tomb sample when compared to both the fac̨ade (χ² = 9.61, p = 0.002) and shaft chamber tomb samples (χ² = 17.90, p [less than]; 0.001). No differences in the frequency of dental caries or abscesses were found. The higher frequency of LEHs suggests that the elite individuals experienced stress during childhood development more often than the non-elite individuals. However, more observations of LEHs point to a higher frequency of childhood stress survival. Unfortunately, the limited subadult remains from both contexts hinders understanding the relationship between LEH frequencies and childhood morbidity and mortality. The difference in dental calculus frequencies indicates either different patterns of protein, dairy, or water consumption between tomb lineages, or differences in taphonomic preservation between tomb types. The higher frequency of AMTL in the hinterland tomb indicates that the non-urban individuals had more dental pathologies that led to AMTL, such as dental caries or calculus, than the urban samples.
Lieurance, Alysha. (July 2018). Exploring Social Inequality at Petra through Dental Pathology (Master's Thesis, East Carolina University). Retrieved from the Scholarship. (http://hdl.handle.net/10342/6968.)
Lieurance, Alysha. Exploring Social Inequality at Petra through Dental Pathology. Master's Thesis. East Carolina University, July 2018. The Scholarship. http://hdl.handle.net/10342/6968. December 11, 2023.
Lieurance, Alysha, “Exploring Social Inequality at Petra through Dental Pathology” (Master's Thesis., East Carolina University, July 2018).
Lieurance, Alysha. Exploring Social Inequality at Petra through Dental Pathology [Master's Thesis]. Greenville, NC: East Carolina University; July 2018.
East Carolina University