My name is Anissa Speakman, I am a rising senior in the Anthropology department, and I am currently working on a Summer Scholars research project. For my research project, I will be looking into dental defects and sex differences in a prehistoric skeletal sample. Dental defects are basically anything that can go wrong with your teeth, like malformed enamel, cavities, abscesses, teeth crowding, etc. I will be specifically looking at malformed enamel (scientific name: enamel hypopalsia) and cavities (scientific name: dental caries) in men and women in a prehistoric skeletal population. Other scholars in the fields of dental anthropology (anthropologists who study primarily dentition) and biological anthropology (anthropologists who study osteology as a whole) have found that women in both living and skeletal samples tend to have higher rates of enamel malformation and cavities. Scholars debate whether this difference in the dental health of the sexes is caused by something biological or something cultural. In my research, I would like to analyze a skeletal sample, and investigate whether the dental health of the women in the sample is really worse than the men. Then, I would like to try to draw a conclusion from my data as to whether the difference in dental health, if there is one, is causes by biology or culture, or a mix of both.
Right now I am working on doing a literature review of all of the information on the topic of sex differences and dental defects. As I work proceed through my project, analyze a skeletal sample, and continue into my senior thesis, I will write updates for the Field Notes Blog.
Until next time,