The human mandible of Umingmak. Morphology and function

The detailed analysis of the Pre-Dorset mandible of Umingmak gives evidence for several aspects in health and way of life of prehistoric Arctic populations. The jaw is identified as one of a male individual of adult to mature age. Although the mandible is only preserved in a fragmented state the analysis of the few examined measures and the discrete traits points to an affiliation to the morphological group of Eskimoid populations. The characters acquired during life indicate a way of life similar to that reported from sub-recent Inuit groups.

Hard food items, masticatory stress and the probable use of the teeth as tools caused enamel chipping and developed attrition. The intra-vitam loss of an incisor is a very common trait in prehistoric and sub-recent Arctic populations due to accidents, pathological processes or the use of the front teeth as a third hand. Micro-wear analysis shows patterns as they are known from carnivore and bone-eating animals, but also from sub-recent Inuit.

Even if food composition might have been quite similar to sub-recent Arctic populations, the Umingmak individual developed a carious lesion, a trait which is extremely rare in these groups due to low carbohydrate diet. The overall health status observable on the Umingmak mandible is rather good. Only slight to moderate grades of periodontal disease are documented which was not very active; a small abscess at the root of the first left incisor began to heal. No enamel hypoplasias as indicators of nutritional or health crises in early childhood could be detected.

As far as it can be seen from a mandibular bone only, the Pre-Dorset individual of Umingmak led a similar life as it was typical for younger prehistoric and sub-recent Arctic populations.

last update: July 2009