Anthropology Insider - Spring 2007
Recent Conferences - American Association of Physical Anthropology

Erica Chambers, Editor | Dr. Jeff McKee, Faculty Advisor

Josh Peck

The impact of Roman imperialism: skeletal evidence of dental health and diet in Britain.

Roman imperialism engendered a number of changes in the social, economic, political, and cultural spheres of Britain. Two direct consequences of these changes are the more intensive use of existing land and the introduction of exotic foods. This study considers the biological impact of these changes by examining the state of human dental health at Roman York (Eburacum). Specifically, this study tests the hypothesis that the agricultural intensification associated with the integration of Britain into the Roman Empire affected dental health in a discernible way. Dental caries, abscesses, and antemortem tooth loss data were collected from individuals at the Romano-British site of Trentholme Drive, York (N=228). Data on dental health from the Iron Age site of Dane's Graves (N=52) were also included, allowing for a preliminary comparison of pre- and postcontact populations in the region. Results indicate that dental health parallels that reported for other Romano-British cemeteries, while representing a clear departure from that reported for the previous Iron Age. When directly compared to data collected from the site of Dane's Graves, a significant increase is observed in both caries and abscess frequency (chi-square; p?0.05), while the rate of antemortem tooth loss remains the same (chi-square; p=0.95). The overall evidence from dental health is interpreted to be the result of increased consumption of carbohydrates coupled with improved oral hygiene. These findings support the hypothesis that changes in agricultural production associated with Roman contact directly affected the dental health of Romano-British populations. Funding provided by National Science Foundation support to the Global History of Health Project.

J.J. Peck. Department of Anthropology, The Ohio State University.