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Diet and dental caries among later stone age inhabitants of the Cape Province South Africa.

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AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY 88:123-134 (1992)
Diet and Dental Caries Among Later Stone Age Inhabitants of
the Cape Province, South Africa
J.C. SEALY, M.K. PATRICK, A.G. MORRIS, AND D. ALDER
Departments of Archaeology (J.C.S., M.K.P., D.A.) and Anatomy and Cell
Biology (A.G.M.), University of Cape Town, Private Bag,
Rondebosch, 7700, South Africa
KEY WORDS
S13C, Hunter-gatherers, Africa, Fluoride
ABSTRACT
Stable carbon isotope measurements and incidences of dental caries are presented for three groups of prehistoric human skeletons from
different regions of the Cape Province, South Africa. The isotopic analyses of
bone collagen demonstrate the importance of marine foods in the diet and
vary through time, across space, and according to sex. The incidence of dental
caries ranges from 0% among heavily marine-dependent individuals from the
south-western Cape coast, to 17.7% among skeletons from an archaeological
site on the south coast. The extremely high incidence of caries in a huntergatherer population may be related to lack of fluoride in the water.
0 1992 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
The health and nutritional status of
hunter-gatherers may vary widely in populations living in different environments, exposed to different pathogens, and consuming different diets. This paper documents
such variability among Later Stone Age inhabitants of the Cape Province, South Africa. Three Holocene groups are compared:
archaeological skeletons found i) along the
south-western Cape coast, between Cape
Town and Elands Bay (see Fig. l),ii) at the
site of Faraoskop (about 30 kilometres inland from Elands Bay), and iii) at the site of
Oakhurst, about 450 kilometres to the
south-east.
All these sites are coastal or near-coastal.
We expect that their inhabitants consumed
marine foods, such as shellfish, and the
meat of whales, seals, fish, and seabirds, in
addition to terrestrial meat and plants.
Analyses of excavated food-waste from archaeological sites indicate that plant foods,
particularly the starchy underground corms
of members of the iris family, and the meat
of small bovids, tortoises, hyrax, and similar
animals were staples (H.J. Deacon, 1976; J.
Deacon, 1984; Sealy, 1986; Parkington et
al., 1988).Although archaeologists know the
kinds of foods likely to have been consumed
0 1992 WILEY-LISS. INC
by Holocene hunter-gatherers, there remain
a number of questions about the way that
these resources were integrated into diets.
How important were particular food items
or classes of foods, such as marine resources? Do different sites, with different
kinds of food-waste, represent the varied
subsistence round of mobile bands of
hunter-foragers, or did separate groups of
people tend to exploit particular resources,
perhaps in separate territories? Were Later
Stone Age diets nutritionally satisfactory?
What can we deduce about the health status
of these people?
Two methods which reflect the impact of
diet on the biology of the population are employed here as a first step towards answering these questions. Measurements of the
stable carbon isotope ratio (13C/12C)of bone
collagen provide information about the relative importance of different classes of foods
in the diet. The incidence of dental caries is
determined at least partly by the nature of
the diet. To deepen our understanding of
prehistoric lifeways, we seek correlations
between these observations on human skel-
Received April 23,1991; accepted December 18,1991.
124
J.C. SEALY ET AL.
Fig. 1. Map showing localities mentioned in the text. Skeletons included in the “south-western Cape
coast” category come from the coastline between the Cape Peninsula and Elands Bay. Horizontal hatching
represents areas where more than 90% of the grass species are C,, small circles show mixed C&, grasses,
in shaded areas more than 90% of grasses are C, (after Vogel, 1978).
etons and reconstructions of diet based on
excavated food-waste.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
The skeletal sample
Three sets of Holocene human skeletons
are compared. The first group (74 southwestern Cape coastal skeletons) have been
assembled and dated for intensive archaeometric analysis (Sealy, 1989). Most were not
recovered under controlled circumstances,
but in the course of building operations or
other developments, and have little associated documentation. They are generally isolated burials in shell middens or sand
dunes. Direct radiocarbon dating of bone collagen therefore provides a n essential
archaeologicalkhronological context for the
observations reported here.
Inland of the shifting dunes and highly
visible shell middens of the coast, fewer human skeletal remains have been recovered.
Recently, a series of skeletons were found at
the site of Faraoskop, about 30 kilometres
inland of Elands Bay. Initially, material was
collected by a local farmer, but subsequent
controlled excavations were carried out by
Manhire and others (Manhire et al., in preparation).At least twelve individuals are represented (Alder, 1988; Table 11, although
some are very fragmentary. Six have been
radiocarbon dated, all the dates falling between 2,300 and 1,900 B.P. (at two standard
deviations, corrected for 613C). It seems
likely that the remaining undated skeletons
also fall into this time range.
The site of Oakhurst in the southern Cape
was excavated in the 1930s, and many skeletons recovered (Drennan, 1938a,b). Recent
re-analysis suggests that at least 48 individuals are represented, 27 of them juveniles
(Patrick, 1989; Table 1).In this respect the
Oakhurst sample differs from that from the
south-western Cape, where the skeletons selected for analysis include few juveniles. Fifteen individuals have been radiocarbon
dated by direct measurements of bone collagen. Fourteen dates fall between 10,000 and
4,000 B.P.; one skeleton is circa 2,000 years
old (Table 1; Patrick, 1989).
Agriculture was not introduced into this
region until after European settlement in
the seventeenth century A.D.; all skeletons
discussed here pre-date this event. Pastoralism first appeared about 2,000 years ago, so
DIET AND DENTAL CARIES IN STONE AGE SOUTH AFRICA
that skeletons less than 2,000 years old (in
this sample, from the south-western Cape
coast only) may be the remains of pastoralists or of residual hunter-gatherers. There
are very few sites a t the Cape known to have
been occupied by pastoralists. Only one excavation has yielded a human skeleton in
association with large numbers of domesticated animals, and a slaughtering pattern
indicative of stock management. Other
fauna from the same site, however, include
numerous seal bones and remains of other
wild animals also utilised by hunter-gatherers (Klein and Cruz-Uribe, 1989). The degree of economic and social differentiation
between pastoralists and hunter-gatherers
is contentious (Schrire, 1980; Elphick, 1985;
Parkington et al., 1986; Smith, 1986). We
have no way of ascertaining the importance
of domesticated animal-derived foods in the
diets of isolated skeletons from the last two
millennia. Carbon and nitrogen isotope
analyses (Sealy et al., 1987; Sealy, 1989)
have not helped us to answer this question.
Thus the most recent skeletons from the
south-western Cape coast may reflect diets
somewhat different from those of the other
individuals in this study; hunted and gathered foods, though, continued to be important. The majority of the skeletons discussed
here, however, date to the period before
2,000 years ago and therefore must be the
remains of hunter-gatherers.
Dietary tracing using 13C/'*C ratios in
bone collagen
The basis of this technique has been reviewed elsewhere (van der Merwe, 1982; DeNiro, 1987). Briefly, plants utilising different photosynthetic pathways incorporate
different proportions of I3C and "C from the
atmosphere. These differences are inherited
by animal and human consumers higher in
the food web and are reflected in their
bones. Measurement of 13C/12C of human
bone can therefore reveal the proportions of
food consumed in life derived from C3 or
Calvin pathway plants (grasses adapted to
temperate climates, most shrubs and trees)
as opposed to C, plants (tropical grasses). In
the sea, the situation is complex but marine
organisms, on average, have I3C/l2C more
similar to C, than to C3 systems.
125
In temperate environments, where there
are no C, grasses, 13C/12Cratios in the bones
of hunter-gatherers reflect the proportions
of marine and terrestrial foods eaten in life
(Tauber, 1981; Chisholm et al., 1982, 1983;
Hobson and Collier, 1984; Sealy and van der
Merwe, 1985, 1986; Hayden et al., 1987;
Yesner, 1988).
Stable carbon isotopes and the Later
Stone Age of the Cape Province,
South Africa
Distinguishing marine from terrestrial resources is of value in the Later Stone Age of
the south-western Cape, where the role of
marine foods in the diets of coastal and nearcoastal dwellers has been a major topic of
research (Parkington, 1972, 1976; Parkington et al., 1988; Smith, 1987; Robertshaw,
1977,1979).Stable carbon isotope measurements of modern representatives of important food species for indigenous Later Stone
Age people confirm the distinct isotopic
character of the terrestrial foodweb (which
is largely based on C, plants) and the marine system. Hence in this area, as in other
winter-rainfall regions, we can use 13C/12C
measurements of human skeletons a s a n index of marine food consumption.
The situation in the southern Cape, at the
site of Oakhurst, is more complicated. This
region receives year-round rainfall, and the
terrestrial flora includes a n appreciable C,
component (Vogel et al., 1978). We expect,
therefore, that the separation in 13C/12Cbetween marine and terrestrial foods will be
less clear-cut than in the western Cape.
Dental caries and tooth-wear
Dental caries result from a complex interaction of dietary, hereditary, and environmental factors. There have been a number of
studies in which the incidence of dental caries is reported for prehistoric populations,
and correlations sought with dietary factors.
Some foods, particularly starchy andlor sugary ones, are known to be cariogenic. It is
widely reported that caries rates among
hunter-gatherers are low, but that people
with access to agricultural products, with
their (usually) higher carbohydrate intake,
are more susceptible to caries (Cohen and
Armelagos, 1984; Drennan, 1929; Goldstein,
~
~~
UCT 199
UCT 200
UCT 201
UCT 201
UCT 202
UCT 203
UCT 203
UCT 204
UCT 204
UCT 204 (3 individuals)
UCT 205
UCT 205(2)
UCT 206(1)
UCT 206(2)
UCT 206(3)
UCT 207(G)
UCT 207(H)
UCT 207(I)
UCT 208' '
UCT 208(Gr9)
UCT 208(Gr10)
UCT 209
UCT 209
UCT 210(10ci
UCT
~- 211
UCT 212
UCT 212
UCT 213
UCT 213(G)
UCT 213(Gr16/2)
IJCT
214
- _ _ -~~
UCT 215(Gr10)
UCT 215(D)
UCT 215(I)
UCT 215'(P/Q?)
UCT 216(5)
UCT lZS(Q/D?)
Oakhurst skeletons
-10.4
-
-15.7
-11.7
-13.8
-16.4
-15.9
-
-
-12.4
-13.9
-
-15.4
-10.9
-12.3
-
-11.1
-13.8
-14.1
-
-12.6
-12.4
-12.3
-
-
-13.6
-14.5
-
-13.4
-16.6
-
-14.2
-12.4
-14.0
613C (Oleo)
male
male
female
juvenile
male
female
juvenile
femaIe
juvenile
indeterminate
juvenile
male
male
female
female
juvenile
juvenile
juvenile
female
juvenile
juvenile
male
juvenile
juvenile
male
female
juvenile
juvenile
juvenile
juvenile
male
juvenile
juvenile
juvenile
juvenile
juvenile
juvenile
Sex
30-39
20-29
30-39
0-1
40+
30-39
0-1
30-39
4-5
indeterminate
5-9
20-29
30-39
30-39
20-29
1-4
5-9
1-4
25-45
1-4
5-9
20-29
0-1
1-4
30-39
30-39
1-4
1-4
0- 1
15-19
20-29
5-9
1-4
1-4
0-1
0- 1
0- 1
Age at death
4995 f 215
5330 f 60
-
AA-2116
-
Pta-4467
-
AA-2117
Pta-3719
-
2065 f 105
-
4900 k 60
-
-
-
4880 i 70
-
-
4830 i 250
-
4880 f 70
5450 I 70
-
-
9100 f 90
4100 i 60
4870 f 210
4530 5 70
AA-2115
Pta-4348
-
Pta-4347
Pta-4367
-
-
Pta-3724
Pta-4431
AA-2119
Pta-4449
6180 f 70
7120 f 60
5990 f 70
Radiocarbon date
Pta-3718
Pta-4354
Pta-4426
TABLE 1 . Skeletons from Oakhurst and Faraoskop
No. of carious teeth
per total teeth
UCT 217(K)
-
-
-17.7
-16.5
-
-17.5
-16.9
-16.8
-18.8
femur: -17.2
cranium: -18.0
-17.8
-16.9/-18.2
-
*Multiple lesions on one tooth are treated as one occurrence.
Total
UCT 391/389
UCT 392/387
UXT 393
UCT 394
UCT 395
UCT 396
UCT 397
UCT 398
UCT 385
UCT 386
UCT 388
UCT 390
FaraoskoD skeletons
Total
UCT 217(M)
UCT 217(N)
UCT 218
UCT 218D (2 individuals)
UCT 2 1 7 i ~ j
-
-14.1
-15.4
-14.4
-15.9
-13.3
-12.0
female
male
juvenile
male
female
indeterminate
female
indeterminate
female
male
juvenile
male
juvenile
juvenile
juvenile
juvenile
juvenile
juvenile
male
indeterminate
25-35
35-45
2-3
40+
20-30
30-35
40+
indeterminate
25-35
40-45
6-7
30-40
20-29
indeterminate
0-1
5-9
1-4
0- 1
0-1
0-1
Pta-4965
Pta-4967
-
Pta-4964
-
Pta-5284
-
Pta-5281
Pta-5283
~~~
+
2090 60
2130 rt 45
2150 + 70
-
2110 rt 70
-
+ 60
* 50
-
2130
2000
-
1/28 Loose teeth
12/138
-
-
-
017
7/26
1/17
1/30
-
2/30
-
.14/192
2/11
5/12
4/21 Skull UCT 192*
4/16 Loose teeth
128
J.C. SEALY ET AL.
1932; Morris, 1984; Pedersen, 1938; Powell,
1985; Schwartz, 1946; Turner, 1979; van
Reenen, 1966; Walker and Hewlett, 1990).
Caries and tooth-wear data presented
here are for individuals with fully adult dentitions only. Since juveniles are excluded,
and some skeletons do not have dentitions
preserved, fewer individuals are represented than in the case of the isotopic
analyses.
Wear values are scored according to Morris' (1984) adaptation of the system used by
Brothwell (1981). Wear observations have
been recorded on the left side of the mouth,
and the right side used only when both maxillary and mandibular teeth on the left side
are missing. The numerical values for maxillary and mandibular teeth are combined; if
the two values are different the average is
given. If unusual wear is obviously due to
ante-mortem tooth loss and subsequent abnormal occlusion, this part of the dentition
is treated a s absent. The five categories are:
0 (unworn), 1(wear on enamel only), 2 (dentin exposed, but some occlusal enamel remains), 3 (heavily worn, enamel rim only
remains), 4 (entire tooth crown lost, pulp
cavity exposed).
The presence of carious lesions has been
recorded for both left and right sides, and
upper and lower jaws. Multiple lesions on
one tooth are treated as one occurrence.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Coastal dwellers in the
south-western Cape
Carbon isotopes
Stable carbon isotope measurements of 74
prehistoric human skeletons from the southwestern Cape coast (between the Cape Peninsula and Elands Bay; see Fig. 1)have recently been completed. All these skeletons
were recovered from shell middens or other
contexts in the immediate vicinity of the
coastline. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of marine foods, viz, To what
extent did coastal people rely upon marine
foods? Are there geographical differences in
the use of seafoods along this 200 kilometre
stretch of coastline? Is there change through
time? Can one detect differences within populations, that is, between men and women,
or adults and children?
A
-I2
-I4
-16
.*
i
.
i
1
A
A
A
I
_ _
6000
DATE (RADIOCARBONYEARS B.P.)
Fig. 2. 6'"C values for male (squares),female (triangles) and neutraUjuvenile (stars) skeletons from the
south-western Cape coast, plotted a s a function of radiocarbon date. 6'"C values are calculated as follows:
p cr
3
'C2
'/C,
1 y y
%standard
Results are reported relative to the internationally accepted standard, PDB. This i s a marine limestone, arbitrarily assigned a 6% value of O"/oo (parts per milk, or
parts per thousand).
values reported here are bone
collagen measurements. The laboratory procedures
used isolate collagen "pseudomorphs" of whole bone: All
samples have C/N ratios within the range of variation of
modern collagen (Hassan and Hare, 1978; DeNiro,
1985). Isotopic values are therefore unlikely to have
been altered by post-mortem degradation.
The answers to these questions are discussed in some detail elsewhere (Sealy,
1989). Briefly, it seems that there was considerable variability in the extent to which
people relied upon marine foods: some individuals ate large amounts, others relatively
little. There is no correlation between geographical location and the amount of seafood consumed.
There is, however, marked chronological
patterning in the carbon isotope ratios (and
hence the marine food intake) of these people (see Fig. 2). All but one of the 74 southwestern Cape coastal skeletons discussed
here have been directly dated by radiocarbon measurements of bone collagen. Only
twelve skeletons pre-date 3,000 B.P., too few
for us to be able to draw any firm conclusions about lifestyles at that time. Values of
S13C (see caption to Fig. 2) for these individuals span almost the entire range from figures indicative of a large marine food intake
(number approaching -ll0/oo) to those rep-
DIET AND DENTAL CARIES IN STONE AGE SOUTH AFRICA
resenting little reliance on seafood (numbers approaching - l8"/oo).
Between 3,000-2,000 BP, the picture
is very different. Stable carbon isotope
readings generally are enriched (x =
-12.82 ? 1 . 2 8 ° i ~n~= 27), reflecting high
marine food consumption. This is in accordance with the archaeological evidence from
the west coast site of Elands Bay, where food
waste from the third millennium B.P. consists almost entirely of marine shells which
have accumulated in open middens, often
near shellfish-rich rocky areas of the shoreline (Parkington et al., 1988). It seems from
the isotopic data, however, that heavy reliance on marine foods at this time is characteristic not only of Elands Bay, but of much
of the south-western Cape coast.
Skeletons post-dating 2000 BP have more
depleted 13C/12C ratios, (x = -14.80
l.6lo/oo n = 271, reflecting diets which incorporated a larger proportion of terrestrial
foods. The distributions of SI3C readings in
the 3,000-2,000 and post-2,000 B.P. periods
are significantly different (Mann-Whitney
approximate Z-value = 4.2, P < 0.001. Only
skeletons with dates falling into these time
brackets a t two standard deviations have
been included). This picture corresponds
with that gained from the excavated sites,
where post-2,000 B.P. food-waste includes
large numbers of the bones of small terrestrial animals and markedly increased quantities of plant food remains. Such a pattern
has been tentatively interpreted as an enforced shift towards the use of less desirable,
and probably more labour-intensive foods as
population density increased and large
parts of the landscape of the south-western
Cape were occupied by pastoralists and so
unavailable to hunter-gatherers (Parkington et al., 1986,1988).Skeletons post-dating
2,000 B.P. probably include pastoralists, a s
well as hunter-gatherers.
Thus there is clear evidence of chronological patterning in the carbon isotope ratios
(and hence the marine food intake) of prehistoric human skeletons from the southwestern Cape coast. In the main, these patterns are consistent with those reported for
food-waste excavated from archaeological
sites.
The chronological patterning may, however, be different for male and female skele-
*
129
tons. Over the entire time range in Figure 2,
there is no linear trend in the association of
613C and radiocarbon date for female skeletons (r2 = 0.00001, d.f. = 26) while there is
for male skeletons (r2 = 0.34, d.f. = 31,
P < 0.01). Women's diets underwent less
change during the period under consideration than did those of men.
Male skeletons, on the whole, have more
positive S13C values (i.e., they are enriched
in the heavy isotope) compared with female
skeletons (Mann-Whitney approximate
Z-value = 2.43, P < 0.01). Men appear to
have consumed more marine foods, and
women more terrestrial foods. It seems
likely that these latter were mostly plant
foods, perhaps consumed in the course of
gathering expeditions.
Dental caries and tooth-wear
A total of 948 teeth were examined, of
which 25 (2.6%) were carious (Table 2). This
is similar to the averge value (1.6%) for 12
hunter-gatherer populations for which
Turner (1979) compiled data. (The range
was 0-5.3%.) Comparisons of the number
and proportion of carious teeth in male and
female skeletons is of some interest, given
the more depleted S13C values, possibly representing a higher intake of carbohydraterich terrestrial plant foods among women.
Of the teeth from female skeletons, 11 out of
438 (2.5%) are carious, compared with 13
out of 504 (2.6%) for males. More than half
the carious teeth of the males are from one
individual (SAM-AP 5091) with advanced
dental disease. If this skeleton is excluded,
the incidence of carious teeth among male
skeletons drops to 6 out of 474 (1.3%).Unfortunately, the numbers of carious teeth are so
small that comparison of caries incidences
in males and females gives a value of the
approximate chi-squared statistic (D2 = 1.9,
d.f. = 1)that is not statistically significant.
The teeth of individuals who ate large
amounts of marine foods (S13C values equal
to or more positive than -13'/00) are somewhat more heavily worn than those of people
with S13C values of - IV/oo or less (Table 3).
A study of dental attrition among the prehistoric inhabitants of the Santa Barbara
Channel of California also found that
greater reliance upon seafood was associated with increased toothwear, and attrib-
130
J.C. SEALY ET AL.
TABLE 2. Numbers of carious teeth per total teeth'
No. of individuals
Incisors
Canines
Premolars
Non-id. I/C/PM
First molars
Second molars
Third molars
Non-id. molars
Total
Percentage
~
~~~~~
~
~
Cape West Coast
total
Cape West Coast
-13 5 6I3C 5 - 1 0
Cape West Coast
-18 5 6I3C 5 -15
Faraoskop
Oakhurst
49
0/184
0/118
2/235
017
6/148
8/141
5/110
4/5
25/948
2.6
18
0/60
0/35
0/75
0/3
0/55
0/50
0/30
011
0/309
0
13
0153
0/31
1/59
0/1
2/34
4/36
4/35
5
0/35
0/19
2/34
13
0/36
1/27
9/52
7/16
1/19
2/15
11/249
4.4
12/138
8.7
8/25
9/28
6/23
1/1
34/192
17.7
-
-
-
-
'Multiple lesions on one tooth are treated as one occurrence.
TABLE 3. Average toothwear scores
Cape West Coast (total)
Cape West Coast (-13 5 6% 5 -10)
Cape West Coast (-18 5 6I3C 5 -15)
Faraoskop
Oakhurst
I1
12
C
PI
P2
M1
M2
M3
2.8
2.9
2.6
3.4
2.8
2.6
2.7
2.4
3.1
2.8
2.5
2.6
2.3
2.8
2.7
2.3
2.1
2.1
2.5
2.6
2.2
2.1
1.7
2.2
2.4
2.3
2.2
2.1
2.5
2.2
2.0
1.9
1.7
2.0
2.1
1.7
1.8
1.4
1.2
1.4
uted this to sand and grit in foods from the
littoral zone (Walker, 1978). The slightly
greater degree of wear in the heavily marine-dependent group at the Cape is, however, probably not sufficient to account for
the marked absence of caries in these individuals. Not one tooth (out of 309) from individuals with SI3C 2 - 13%0 is carious. Skeletons with -18 s 613C G -15 yielded 11
carious teeth out of a total of 249. These
frequencies are significantly different
(D2 = 13.9, d.f. = 1, P < 0.005).
Comparisons of caries incidences based on
total numbers of teeth examined may be
misleading. Some individuals have several
carious teeth. The presence of an initial carious lesion increases the chances of additional lesions developing, and thus violates
the assumption that the observations are independent. It may be more appropriate to
compare the numbers of dentitions with caries, even though most have suffered postmortem losses. None of the eighteen individuals with S13C 2 -13"/00 have caries,
compared with five out of thirteen skeletons
with -18 4 S13C G -15. These frequencies
are significantly different (D2 = 8.2, d.f. =
1, P < 0.01).
At least two factors may contribute to the
lower incidence of caries among individuals
who ate diets rich in marine foods: lower
carbohydrate intake andlor the possible cariostatic effects of seafood. The influence of
carbohydrates on caries has been mentioned
above. One possible explanation for the lack
of carious lesions in individuals who ate a
great deal of seafood (Walker and Erlandson, 1986; this study) may simply be that
they ate relatively little carbohydrate food.
It has also been suggested that marine
foods, particularly fish, contain high levels
of fluoride and inhibit the development of
caries (Sognnaes, 1941; Pu and Lilienthal,
1961; Hadjimarkos, 1964). This effect has
been challenged, however, by analysis of
non-carious teeth from a strongly fish-dependent population, which contained less
fluoride than expected (Holloway et al.,
1965). The relationship between marine
food intake and dental caries probably requires further investigation.
Non-coastal dwellers in the
south-western Cape
Carbon isotopes
Stable carbon isotope measurements are
available for nine of the Faraoskop skeletons. They range from -16.8 to -18.8"/00.
These values are similar to those obtained
DIET AND DENTAL CARIES IN STONE AGE SOUTH AFRICA
previously for skeletons from the Olifants
River Valley, approximately 30 kilometers
further inland than Faraoskop (Fig. 1). Values of 613C for all sixteen non-coastal skeletons range from -16.0 to -19.0°/oo. This
sample is too small to provide the chronological or social information obtained from the
much larger number of coastal skeletons; it
is of interest mainly for the light it throws
upon the more terrestrially-based subsistence patterns of inland people (Sealy, 1986;
Sealy and van der Merwe, 1985; 1986; but
see also Parkington, 1986,1987,1991).
These S13C values overlap with those of
the coastal skeletons, but all lie towards the
more negative end of the range, indicating
largely terrestrial diets. It has been argued
that inland individuals followed a different
subsistence round from that of coastal people (Sealy, 1986; Sealy and van der Merwe,
1985,1986,1987).
Such comparisons have previously focussed on coastal skeletons from Elands Bay
and individuals from the Olifants River Valley. As noted above, the site of Faraoskop is
almost half-way between these two areas,
only about 30 kilometres from Elands Bay.
The presence of significant quantities of marine shell in the Faraoskop deposits is evidence of contact with the coast. Skeletons
from Faraoskop, however, like those from
the Olifants River Valley, have S13C values
which reflect only a small marine food intake. We do not yet have skeletons from
Elands Bay which date to exactly the same
period as those from Faraoskop. This period
is a particularly interesting one in the
coastal sequence, marking as it does the end
of the “megamidden” period, during which
evidence of human occupation at Elands
Bay is found almost entirely in huge openair shell middens located near shellfish-rich
rocky outcrops (Parkington et al., 1988).
Contemporary coastal skeletons from further south are often enriched in 13C compared with the Faraoskop skeletons, indicating large intakes of marine foods (Sealy,
1989; Sealy and van der Merwe, 1988).Why
did the people whose skeletons are buried a t
Faraoskop not eat more marine foods, if they
were only 30 kilometres from the coast? One
possibility is that there was an intervening
social boundary, so that restricted access to
131
another group’s territory may have limited
the availability of seafoods.
Dental caries and tooth-wear
Data on caries and tooth-wear are available only for five adult skeletons from
Faraoskop (Tables 1 and 2). Of 138 teeth
examined, 12 (8.7%)were carious. The average tooth-wear scores for the anterior teeth
are slightly higher than in the case of the
coastal skeletons; for the posterior teeth the
values are similar. Based on total number of
teeth examined, the incidence of dental caries is not significantly different from that
seen in coastal skeletons with comparable
S13C values (-18 s S13C 4 -15) (D2 =
2.9, d.f. = 1).If numbers of dentitions with
caries are compared, the conclusion remains
the same (D2 = 2.5, d.f. = 1). Thus, on the
currently available sample, the Faraoskop
results are consistent with the picture for
those coastal individuals who ate more
mixed diets, probably including a greater
proportion of terrestrial carbohydrate foods.
If a larger sample were available, statistically significant differences might emerge.
Four out of five of the Faraoskop dentitions
show caries, and the one that does not is that
of an elderly individual with only seven anterior teeth remaining. The sample is, however, very small and subject to bias: it is
possible that all the individuals were related
to one another, and their susceptibility to
caries influenced by genetic factors.
Oakhurst (Southern Cape)
Carbon isotopes
Thirty S13C values have been obtained for
skeletons from Oakhurst. They range from
-10.4 to - l6.6%0. These numbers are difficult to interpret, since enriched 13C/12C
measurements in areas such as the southern Cape may indicate marine foods in the
diet, or alternatively C,-based terrestrial
food (e.g. the meat of grazing animals). Marine shells and fish-bones have been identified from the Oakhurst deposits (but not
quantified), so we know marine foods were
consumed (Patrick, 1989).The complex ecology of the southern Cape, however, precludes confident interpretation of 613C values without extensive monitoring of the
132
J.C. SEALY ET AL
surrounding areas. There does not appear to
be any marked shift in SI3C with time
(Patrick, 1989).
much greater incidences (up to 5%)in areas
where the fluoride level is currently less
than 2 ppm,
Dental caries and tooth-wear
C0NCLUSI 0NS
The relative importance of marine and
terrestrial foods (as revealed by SI3C measurements) in the diets of coastal and near-
One hundred and ninety-two adult teeth
were available for examination. Tables 1,2,
and 3 show the incidence of caries, and average toothwear scores. The toothwear values
are not markedly different from those for the
south-western Cape skeletons discussed
above. 34/192 teeth (17.7%) showed caries.
This is an extraordinarily high incidence of
caries; higher than any of the published values we have seen reported for hunting-andgathering societies (e.g. Cohen and Armelagos, 1984; Drennan, 1929; Goldstein, 1932,
Morris, 1984; Pedersen, 1938; Powell, 1985;
Schwartz, 1946; Turner, 1979; van Reenen,
1966; Walker and Erlandson, 1986; Walker
and Hewlett, 1990),or for the European Mesolithic (Meiklejohn et al., 1984, 1988).
Skeletons with S13C more positive than
- 13*/00may have carious teeth, in contrast
to the situation in the south-western Cape.
Although we cannot be sure that enriched
carbon isotope ratios at Oakhurst necessarily reflect marine foods in the diet, the marine shells and fish bone found at the site
strongly suggest that such items were eaten.
Any cariostatic properties of these foods
were inadequate to prevent or arrest dental
decay in the inhabitants of Oakhurst.
The explanation for the high prevalence of
caries is almost certainly related to the extremely low fluoride content of the groundwater in the southern Cape. Fluoride concentrations are below 1 ppm in the area
surrounding Oakhurst, and contemporary
populations with limited access to dental
care suffer rampant caries (Ockerse, 1949).
Fluoride in the groundwater of the southwestern Cape, on the other hand, varies
from less than 1 to more than 6 ppm. The
northern Cape and the Kalahari have relatively high levels of fluoride in the groundwater, no doubt a contributing factor in the
low incidence of caries (0.7%) reported for
the Kalahari San (van Reenen, 1966). Morris’ (1984) analysis of late prehistoric skeletons from the northern Cape shows similar
low caries rates for high fluoride zones, and
coastal hunter-gatherers from three areas of
the Cape Province, South Africa is discussed. The degree of tooth-wear and incidence of dental caries has been recorded for
these same skeletons, and correlations
sought between diet and pathology. The incidence of dental caries is different in each of
the three areas: It is lowest (2.6%) among
coastal skeletons in the south-western Cape,
intermediate (8.7%)in individuals from the
non-coastal site of Faraoskop, also in the
south-western Cape, and highest (17.7%)
among skeletons from Oakhurst in the
southern Cape. In the sample of coastal
skeletons from the south-western Cape, individuals who ate large amounts of seafood
have a lower incidence of caries than do people who ate more mixed marine and terrestrial diets. In the southern Cape, the high
incidence of caries probably results from low
levels of fluoride in the groundwater. This
paper highlights the substantial variability
in diet and caries rates among hunter-gatherers in a fairly limited area.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Drs. Graham and Margaret Avery and
Mr. Mike Wilson of the South African Museum arranged access to the physical anthropological collections in their care. Mr.
John Lanham provided invaluable laboratory and computer assistance. We thank Dr.
John Vogel and staff of the Department of
Earth and Marine Science and Technology
at the Council for Scientific and Industrial
Research in Pretoria for numerous radiocarbon dates, without which this work would be
meaningless. Additional dates were provided by Dr. Timothy Linick of the Department of Physics, University of Arizona, Dr.
Robert Hedges and staff of the carbon-14
accelerator laboratory at the Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of
Art at Oxford University; and Mr. H.
DIET AND DENTAL CARIES IN STONE AGE SOUTH AFRICA
Krueger and staff of the Geochron Laboratories, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Dr. Tim
Dunne of the Department of Mathematical
Statistics of the University of Cape Town
and Dr. Mary-Lou Thompson, formerly of
the same department, advised on statistics.
An earlier version of this paper was read at
the 6th International Conference on Hunting and Gathering Societies in Fairbanks,
Alaska during May 1990. Comments from
delegates a t that meeting have improved
our arguments, as have suggestions from
Professor Andrew Sillen and three anonymous reviewers. Financial support from the
Foundation for Research Development of
the C.S.I.R. and the University of Cape
Town is gratefully acknowledged.
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