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Georgia Journal of Science

Article Title

DIETARY RECONSTRUCTION OF LATE NEOLITHIC FARMERS FROM THE MEUSE RIVER BASIN OF BELGIUM USING DENTAL MICROWEAR

Abstract

Nearly 200 Late Neolithic collective burials are preserved from the karstic caves and rockshelters of the Meuse River and its tributaries in Belgium, and several are associated with radiocarbon dates. Adult mandibles and maxillae with molars in situ comprise the majority the remains and provide a means to reconstruct the diet using microscopic use-wear characteristics resulting from the mastication of tough, abrasive, hard, brittle and grit-laden foods. A total of 59 individuals were examined from five Neolithic caves, including Hastière Caverne M (n=8), Hastière Trou Garçon C (n=2), Sclaigneaux (n=18), Bois Madame (n=15) and Maurenne Caverne de la Cave (n=16). Although the cave burials range in age from the early/late to final/late Neolithic, Maurenne Caverne de la Cave, has yielded one Middle Neolithic date and three dates falling at the terminus of the Late Neolithic. Dental casts from dental impressions collected from the original material were examined under a stereomicroscope at 35x using an external light source to manifest microwear features. The average of counts of microwear features, including fine scratches, coarse scratches, hypercoarse scratches, small pits, large pits and puncture pits, from two locations on phase II facets of the paracone or protoconid were compared using an analysis of variance coupled with Tukey’s post-hoc test. All microwear features were subjected to discriminant function analysis to estimate classification rates for each burial and to compare the distribution of individuals across multivariate axes. Significant differences in fine scratches exist between Maurenne Caverne de la Cave and Sclaigneaux (p=0.014) indicative of distinct dietary regimes. Maurenne Caverne de la Cave has highest classification rate suggesting a cohesive group and Sclaigneaux differs the most from the other caves which could be related to ecogeography. Despite these differences, the mechanical properties of food resources were relatively constant during the Late Neolithic period of Belgium.

Acknowledgements

Funding was provided by Fulbright-Belgium and the Commission for Educational Exchange between the USA, Belgium and Luxembourg

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