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Prehistoric Уfish-eatersФ along the eastern Arabian coasts Dental variation morphology and oral health in the Ra's al-Hamra community (Qurum Sultanate of Oman 5thЦ4th millennia BC).

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AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY 78:575-594 (1989)
Prehistoric “Fish-Eaters” Along the Eastern Arabian Coasts:
Dental Variation, Morphology, and Oral Health in the
Ra’s al-Hamra Community (Qurum, Sultanate of Oman,
5th-4th Millennia BC)
ROBERTO MACCHIARELLI
Soprintendenza Speciale aE Muse0 Nazionale PreistoricefZtnografio.
‘‘L Pigorini” - Sezione di Antropologia, 00144 Rome, Italy
KEY WORDS
Hamra
Dental anthropology, Prehistoric Arabia, Ra’s al-
ABSTRACT
The Ra’s al-Hamra prehistoric fishermen lived in isolation on
the Qurum rocky promontorium in Oman during the 5th-4th millennia BC. To
date, they represent the most ancient and numerous human fossil group
excavated from the Arabian peninsula. Like other contemporaneous archaeologically documented small communities along the desert Arabian coasts, they
intensively exploited ocean resources and collected molluscs from nearby mangrove swamps. The present study analyzes aspects of dental anthropology
(including crown variation, morphology, dental wear, and oral health), in 600
permanent teeth from 49 individuals of both sexes excavated at the Mesolithic
RH5-site by the Italian Archaeological Mission in Oman from 1981 to 1985. In
association with a general low degree of morphometric variation, the Ra’s alHamra dental crowns show low sexual dimorphism and are consistently reduced in size. These features are unexpected in a preagricultural population,
especially when these data are compared to other eastern African and near
Middle Eastern prehistoric populations. These data are discussed within the
general context of human dental structural reduction occurring during the
post-Pleistocene and are interpreted according to the “increasing population
density effect” model. There are other significant differences that characterize
the Ra’s al-Hamra dentitions with respect to both eastern and western prehistoric human groups. The frequency of numerous nonmetric crown traits supports the hypothesis that a microdifferentiation phenomenon occurred in this
marginal area. The preliminary skeletal analysis and the palaeodemographic
profile show that the Omani prehistoric fishermen were affected by genetic
isolation and inbreeding as well as strong environmental stress. Because of
the grit assimilated with dried fish and the high shellfish consumption, dental
wear was extreme in all age groups a t Ra’s al-Hamra and occasionally was
responsible for serious hematogenously spread infections. In spite of the great
anthropological importance of ancient Arabian populations, very few studies
on skeletal and dental samples have been completed. The present paper offers
a n odontological data set for future comparative research in the area.
The first historical records of fishing and quering the sea joining the great centers of
mollusc-gathering communities dispersed eastern civilization (Biagi et al., 1984). Howalong the desert coasts encircling the Ery- ever, Middle Eastern prehistoric archaeology
threan sea come from Herodotus. Since pre- has traditionally paid little (or no) attention
historic times, though, the “fish-eaters” to those regions and cultures not primarily
experimented with new alternative adaptive
strategies and had a n important role in conReceived July 10,1987;
accepted June 13,1988.
0 1989 ALAN R. LISS. INC.
576
R. MACCHIARELLI
involved in the early development of agriculture. The Arabian coasts have been completely ignored, although these have been
strategically relevant at least since the 4th
milliennium BC.
In his recent review on prehistoric Arabia,
Tosi (1986) rightly noted that predesert
steppe exploitation, like maritime and mountain adaptations, has remained strongly
underestimated. As a result, a n area of subcontinental magnitude like Arabia was put
in the role of a passive recipient. Unfortunately, studies on occasional skeletal series
following the so-called “racial analytic paradigm” (Lukacs, 1983a) failed to draw out possible relationships with either Arabian
historical-archaeological or environmental
variables. Our knowledge a t the regional
level has remained inadequate. On the other
hand, the archaeological and anthropological
investigations in the Mediterranean Levant
demonstrate what a more solidly based research program could provide (Bar-Yosef,
1980).
It was with such a n aim that a research
program on early maritime adaptations was
begun for northern Oman (IsMEO Activities,
1981; Tosi, 1975, 1986). This study took part
within a more general program on the relevance of prehistoric nonfarming economies
in the formative process of Asian civilizations (Tosi, 1983). The research was conducted by the Istituto Universitario
Orientale of Naples, the Istituto Italian0 per
il Medio ed Estremo Oriente (IsMEO) of
Rome, the Centro Studi e Ricerche Ligabue
of Venice, and the Department of Antiquities
of the Ministry of National Heritage and
Culture of the Sultanate of Oman. An important prehistoric deposit at Qurum (Muscat),
on the Ra’s al-Hamra rocky promontorium,
was soon discovered (Durante and Tosi, 1977).
Systematic excavations of the aceramic settlement (Biagi and Nisbet, 1986) and the
graveyard at the RH5 site (Biagi and Salvatori, 1986; Coppa et al., 1985)began in 1981.
The graveyard has been radiocarbon dated
to the 5th-4th millennia BC (Biagi et al.,
1984).
The area called Ra’s al-Hamra is a triangular zone of blackish earth, very apt as a
fishermen’s site. It sits in proximal control of
three ecosystems, which were intensively exploited by the prehistoric community: the
shallow coastal waters, the tidal flats, and
the mangrove swamps (IsMEO Activities,
1981).
The RH5 cemetery area lies in the eastern
part of the archaeological deposit and is characterized by a fairly compact bed containing
fish remains, shells, and crushed stones as
well as chipped stone tools and periodotite
pebbles used as hammers or side-notched
weights for nets (Coppa et al., 1985; IsMEO
Activities, 1982). Because the site is exposed
to strong erosion, and because of the peculiar
spatial disposition of numerous individual
and collective secondary graves, the human
remains (occasionally fired) were not well
preserved. Despite these diEculties (Coppa
et al., 1985; Danubio and Coppa, 1984; Grilletto, 1982; Macchiarelli and Coppa, 19831,
preliminary studies were made on the dental
remains of the sample, which is the most
numerous and ancient collection from the
Arabian peninsula (Macchiarelli, 1984, 1985;
Macchiarelli and Frohlich, 1986). Furthermore, early results of the systematic anthropological field work suggested the following
hypotheses: 1)the community suffered a possibly marked genetic isiolation; 2) the population was strongly stressed by multiple
environmental factors; 3) since “death is the
ultimate measure of maladaptation in biological populations” (Armelagos et al., 1981),
it is reasonable to postulate that the community suffered a n unsuccessful adaptation,
possibly a n inadequate compensation of the
“profits” and “disadvantages” intimately related to a prehistoric sedentary coastal life.
In this context, the main aim of the present
study is to contribute, by means of dental
anthropology, to the interpretation of the biological history of the Ra’s al-Hamra community. At the same time, a data set is provided
for future comparative research.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
The data set is composed of 600 permanent
teeth, belonging to 20 males (n = 311), 17
females (n = 216), and 12 individuals of unknown sex (n = 73). Preliminarily, sex and
age attributions were performed in situ, during three field campaigns and reevaluated in
the laboratory after accurate restoration
(Macchiarelli and Coppa, 1983). Sex determination criteria basically followed Acsadi
and Nemeskeri (1970). Whenever possible,
the “M’ sexualization coefficient was also
calculated using the morphological characteristics of the skull, the mandible, and the
innominate bones. The ages a t death were
assessed by the “combined method” (Nemes-
PREHISTORIC DENTAL ANALYSIS FROM R A S AL-HAMRA
keri et al., 19601, which was integrated with
the recommendations of Ferembach et al.
(1979) and corroborated by radiographic evaluation of the spongy and cortical bone
changes in the available proximal humeral
and femoral heads.
Mesiodistal (M-D) and buccolingual (B-L)
crown diameters were measured by a vernier
caliper to the nearest 0.1 mm according to
Goose (1963). For comparative purposes,
crown areas were also calculated to approximate chewing surface (Garn et al., 1977).Percent sexual dimorphism was determined
according to Perzigian (1976), and dental
asymmetry (“d” values) in each available
pair of antimeres was also estimated (Garn
et al., 1966b).
Because of the heavy wear affecting the
crowns, a limited set of nonmetric traits was
recorded, following Scott and Dahlberg (1982)
and Scott and coworkers (1983).To reduce the
likelihood of misclassifications, all the variables, with the exception of cusp number and
groove pattern, were dischotomized and the
results considered in combined sexes (Coppa
and Macchiarelli, 1982).
The form of the occlusal surfaces of all the
teeth and degree of wear of incisors, canines,
and premolars were investigated using the
standardizations proposed by Molnar (1971);
wear rates in molars were assessed by Scott’s
technique (1979). In fact, the division of the
surface into four separately interpreted
quadrants, using a n ordinal scale ranging
from 1 to 10, seems to provide information
concerning the various tooth regions that is
both synthetic and analytical (Macchiarelli
and Salvadei, 1985).
RESULTS
Metric traits
Descriptive statistics, including sample size
(N), mean values (X), standard deviations
(s.d.1, and coefficients of variation (c.v.) of
crown diameters (M-D and B-L) and dental
areas are presented in Tables 1 and 2 for
males and females, respectively. On the
whole, the sample is characterized by a low
range of variation, harmonically distributed
in both the upper and lower arches, as indicated by a great homogeneity within sexes of
the average C.V.values. Females appear more
variable than males in 62.50% of the linear
dimensions and in 68.75% of the areas. With
regard to a n expected gradient of variation,
females more frequently and consistenly
show a “mosaic pattern,” especially in upper
577
B-L breadths, with anchor teeth (Dahlberg,
1945) less stable than distal teeth. Sample
size and errors from the strong wear certainly could be considered as responsible for
local anomalies in the variability distribution. However, the greater deviation with respect to the “field” and a notably greater
variation of the teeth systematically observed in females have to be considered. According to Garn and coworkers (1968), a
slightly greater metric variation is a common feature in females, but, in the present
sample, statistically significant differences
between the sexes, according to the F test of
the variances, were recorded for upper M2 (F
= 3.74) and lower P4 (F = 3.12) B = L diamters. Moreover, other diameters, such as MD in both the mandibular incisors and B-L in
lower P4, show remarkable differences in the
C.V.values.
Table 3 refers to the total sample available,
including the unsexed specimens. When combined sexes were considered, anomalies persist in the variability distribution by
morphological class. In the upper dentition,
the central incisor is constantly more stable
than the lateral, but this does not occur in
premolars and the last two molars for B-L
breadth and areas. The first molar is the
least variable tooth, and the canine, suprisingly, shows a higher variability than M3 in
B-L diameter. In the lower dentition, the
mean C.V.values perfectly overlap those of
the upper dentition, but again discrepancies
are evident. In fact, the lateral incisor anchor
tooth is always more variable than 11, while
P3 is more stable than P4. With the last two
molars, anomalies exist for M-D diameter
and areas.
Both upper P3 diameters exceed P4 values
in males; this occurs in females for the length
only. In the lower dentition, P4 is systematically larger than P3. A clear progressive size
reduction in M-D direction can be observed
in molars. Females have higher values than
males in both upper M3 diameters as well as
in lower B-L breadth.
Size differences between sexes were subjected to a t test for the means. Only comparisons allowing the hypothesis of equality of
the variances were taken into consideration.
In utilizing M-D lengths, B-L breadths, and
dental areas as variables, 11 of 23 comparisons considered for upper teeth showed significant differences at least at the 0.05 level
for mean dimensions. They include two M-D
diameters (I1 and Ml), four B-L breadths (11,
P3
P4
M1
M2
M3
C
I2
Maxillary
I1
I2
C
P3
P4
M1
M2
M3
Mandibular
I1
8.28
6.76
7.62
6.86
6.70
10.52
9.64
8.48
5.17
5.72
6.93
6.72
6.91
10.97
10.70
9.86
4
10
12
18
17
19
22
20
0.15
0.27
0.37
0.28
0.45
0.40
0.74
0.68
0.38
0.54
0.49
0.29
0.45
0.35
0.58
0.54
M-D diameter
s.d.
x
12
17
17
15
14
16
20
12
N
2.90
4.72
5.34
4.17
6.51
3.65
6.92
6.90
4.59
7.99
6.43
4.23
6.72
3.33
6.02
6.37
C.V.
14
16
14
18
16
17
22
20
12
17
20
15
14
14
20
14
N
6.23
6.49
7.90
7.64
8.06
11.15
10.57
9.69
7.28
6.42
8.27
9.13
9.11
11.67
11.56
9.89
x
0.28
0.31
0.49
0.39
0.47
0.53
0.59
0.59
0.39
0.34
0.58
0.41
0.53
0.39
0.61
0.71
B-L diameter
s.d.
4.49
4.78
6.20
5.10
5.83
4.75
5.58
6.09
5.36
5.30
7.01
4.49
5.82
3.34
5.28
7.18
C.V.
4
10
11
18
15
17
22
20
12
17
17
15
14
14
20
12
N
32.22
37.29
55.42
51.42
56.00
122.10
113.47
95.84
9.58
11.21
11.55
7.09
10.01
5.54
9.29
6.88
3.41
9.55
10.81
7.54
11.52
7.12
11.63
11.52
1.10
3.56
5.99
3.88
6.45
8.69
13.20
11.04
C.V.
5.79
4.87
7.38
4.44
6.19
6.82
10.37
5.87
Dental areas
s.d.
60.44
43.44
63.89
62.65
61.14
23.09
11.63
85.33
x
TABLE 1. Descriptive statistics of mesio-distal (M-D) and bucco-lingual (B-L)diameters and dental areas in maxillary (upper) and mandibular (lower) teeth,
in males. The values are in millimeters for the diameters and in sauare millimeters for the areas
P4
M1
M2
M3
C
P3
P4
M1
M2
M3
Maxillary
I1
I2
15
16
14
6
9
8
17
15
15
13
16
4
N
0.50
0.38
0.44
0.41
0.31
0.36
0 86
0.92
0.38
0.54
0.37
0.30
0.38
0.59
0.49
0.53
7.98
6.11
7.43
6.76
6.67
10.21
9.60
9.17
5.15
5.54
6.27
6.51
6.63
10.60
10.08
9.73
X
M-D diameter
s.d.
9
8
18
15
15
14
16
4
13
10
8
9
15
15
14
6
7.38
9.75
5.90
4.61
5.73
5.57
4.86
5.45
N
6.27
6.22
5.92
6.06
4.65
3.53
8.96
10.03
C.V.
5.90
6.25
7.11
7.33
7.75
10.43
10.03
9.75
6.90
6.02
8.09
8.59
8.82
1130
10.27
10.27
t
0.25
0.36
0.60
0.43
0.83
0.48
0.58
0.87
0.36
0.34
0.52
0.51
0.49
0.45
1.18
0.22
B-L diameter
s.d.
5.78
8.92
4.60
4.24
5.76
8.44
5.87
10.71
5.22
5.65
6.43
5.94
5.56
3.98
11.49
2.14
C.V.
11
9
8
9
15
14
14
6
7
8
17
15
15
12
15
4
N
30.48
34.01
44.42
47.83
51.52
110.05
101.25
95.27
2.96
2.65
6.35
4.79
7.29
9.38
9.79
13.32
6.01
4.05
6.46
6.59
._ _
5.37
7.77
11.73
10.96
Dental areas
s.d.
54.61
36.89
60.41
58.24
58 89
115.63
97.50
94.39
t
9.71
7.79
14.29
10.01
14.15
8.52
9.67
13.98
11.00
10.98
10.69
11
_ _ 31
__
9.12
6.72
12.03
11.61
C.V.
TABLE 2. Descriptive statistics of mesio-distal (M-D) and bucco-lingual (B-L) diameters and dental areas in maxillary (upper) and mandibular (lower) teeth,
in females. The values are i n millimeters for the diameters and i n square millimeters for the areas
Maxillary
I1
I2
C
P3
P4
M1
M2
M3
Mandibular
I1
I2
C
P3
P4
M1
M2
M3
8.10
6.51
7.57
6.81
6.65
10.39
9.60
8.73
5.24
5.71
6.67
6.63
6.80
10.77
10.43
9.78
19
24
26
31
37
41
40
29
26
28
44
35
34
35
41
21
31
30
26
31
36
38
40
29
6.49
7.53
6.90
4.37
6.03
5.66
6.52
6.34
0.34
0.43
0.46
0.29
0.41
0.50
0.68
0.62
N
5.18
8.60
5.94
4.85
5.41
3.37
6.98
7.56
C.V.
0.42
0.56
0.45
0.33
0.36
0.35
0.67
0.66
M-D diameter
x
s.d.
26
28
40
35
34
36
41
19
N
6.07
6.36
7.63
7.52
7.90
10.78
10.37
9.67
7.06
6.26
8.22
8.83
8.91
11.39
10.93
10.00
5.67
5.91
6.45
5.78
5.61
4.13
9.51
6.00
4.78
5.19
7.86
5.32
8.10
5.66
5.79
6.41
0.29
0.33
0.60
0.40
0.64
0.61
0.60
0.62
C.V.
0.40
0.37
0.53
0.51
0.50
0.47
1.04
0.60
B-L diameter
t
s.d.
19
23
23
31
35
37
40
29
24
28
40
35
34
33
40
19
N
31.56
36.04
51.17
49.95
53.86
115.89
108.50
94.98
2.69
3.26
7.49
4.23
6.74
10.09
12.61
10.92
6.06
5.38
6.77
5.66
5.57
7.79
12.15
7.68
Dental areas
s.d.
57.35
40.88
62.72
60.26
59.39
118.61
105.18
88.43
t
8.52
9.04
14.64
8.47
12.51
8.71
11.62
11.50
10.57
13.16
10.79
9.39
9.38
6.57
11.55
8.68
C.V.
TABLE 3. Descriptive statistics of mesivdistal (M-D) and buccwlingual W L ) diameters and dental areas in maxillary (upper) and mandibular (lower) teeth,
in the total sample. The values are in millimeters for the diameters and in square millimeters for the areas
581
PREHISTORIC DENTAL ANALYSIS FROM RA’S AL-HAMRA
TABLE 4. Percentage of sexual dimorphism in maxillary (left) and mandibular (right) teeth
M-D
I1
I2
C
P3
P4
M1
M1
+ 3.62
+ 9.61
+ 2.49
+ 0.45
+ 2.95
+ 0.41
+ 1.46
M3
- 8.14
s
+ 1.61
Maxillary
B-L
+
+
+
+
+
+
+
-
+
5.22
6.23
2.18
5.91
3.18
3.17
11.16
3.84
4.15
Area
+ 9.65
+ 15.08
+ 5.45
+ 7.04
+ 3.68
+ 6.06
+ 12.66
- 10.62
+
6.12
12, P3, and Ml), and five areas (12, P3, M1,
M2, and M3). In the lower dentition, three
M-D diameters (C, M1, and M2), four B-L
breadths (11, C, M1, and M2), and five areas
(12, C, P3, M1, and M2) were significantly
different (12 comparisons of 23 taken into
consideration).
Differences in B-L diameter between the
sexes were more consistent than in M-D. No
difference was recorded between the upper
canines in spite of the significant differences
noted in the mandibular canines.
Sexual dimorphism was universally low, a
partially unexpected result in a preagricultural population (but see Frayer and Wolpoff,
1985). The values shown in Table 4 incipiently overlap those of living populations
(Garn et al., 1967; Hanihara, 1978) and
strongly contrast with evidence collected on
other prehistoric samples (Brace and Ryan,
1980; Frayer, 1980). The mandibular dentition shows a slightly greater average dimorphism in both the diameters? and the
lower canine was the most dimorphic tooth.
Conversely, the maxillary canine in B-L
breadths and areas shows little difference
between the sexes. The mean value of the
upper M-D diameter (including the negative
value of 8.14% recorded for M3) is the lowest
(x = 1.61%). As was observed by numerous
authors, sexual dimorphism is greater in BL diameters, and, according to the results
offered by Garn and coworkers (1966a1, upper
P4 is much less dimorphic than P3.
In spite of the small sample, and of some
doubts about the biological meaning of antimeric variation (Friedlaender, 1975; 1891901, nondirectional dental asymmetry was
evaluated in all the available antimeric
pairs. Differences “d” (Garn et al., 1966b)
between the sexes were not evaluated, but,
with only a few exceptions, the total sample
M-D
I1
I2
C
P3
P4
M1
M2
M3
x
+ 0.39
+ 3.15
+ 9.52
+ 3.12
+ 4.05
+ 3.37
+ 5.79
+ 1.32
+ 3.84
Mandibular
B-L
+
5.30
+
+
6.46
5.11
0.62
4.73
+ 3.70
+ 10.00
+ 4.06
+ 3.85
-
+
Area
+
5.40
+ 8.80
+ 19.85
+ 6.98
+ 8.00
+ 9.87
+ 10.77
+ 0.59
+ 8.78
presents low values for both diameters. In
54.17% of the cases, right antimers exceed
left. In the upper dentition, M1 is the least
asymmetric tooth in M-D diameter, whereas
M3 and P4 show highest values. In the case
of B-L breadth, I1 is the least asymmetric,
M2, M1, and the upper canine showing the
highest values. Specifically, the M2 value is
the highest (X = -0.19; s.d. = 0.52). In the
lower dentition, I1 for M-D and P4 for B-L
present the lowest values and M2 and M3
the highest.
Nonmetric traits
Without any distinction with regard to sex,
frequencies of the dichotomized nonmetric
crown traits, and molar cusps number and
groove pattern, are given in Tables 5 and 6
for the upper and lower dentition, respectively.
Upper incisors displayed neither cingulum
formations nor palatine invagination resulting in shovelling, but they did show modest
occlusal curvature (Dahlberg plaque series,
type 1). Commonly, there is a high association between lingual tubercles on the maxillary central incisors and canines (Scott, 1977).
However, in the Ra’s al-Hamra sample, a n
enamel overstructure in the form of a very
slight tubercle formation frequently can be
found (35.71%) on the basal cingulum of the
upper canines. Molar teeth showed a clear
pattern of hypocone reduction in M-D direction. The last molar was the most variable in
cusp number. Upper M1 displayed four cusps
in 90.48% of cases; hypocone absence on M3
was recorded in 41.18% of cases. Extra lingual cusps were never noted on premolars.
In one isolated upper M1, slight grooves on
the lingual aspect of the mesiolingual cusp
were interpreted as a Carabelli’s trait.
582
R. MACCHIARELLI
TABLE 5. Nonmetric m a d l a r y dental traits frequencies, in both sexes
Trait
N
+
Shovel shape I1
Shovel shape I2
Canine tubercle
Cusp number
M14+
M14
M2 4
M2 4M2 3
M3 4
M3 4M3 3 +
M3 3
Carabelli’s cusp
M1
M2
M3
29
25
42
-
-
15
35.71
2
19
11
14
4
2
2
6
7
9.52
90.48
37.93
48.28
13.79
11.76
11.76
35.29
41.18
1
3.57
21
29
17
28
33
18
%
-
cusps was recorded on M2 in 20% of cases. In
accordance with the expectations derived
from Scott’s study (19781, concerning the pos%
sible relationship between upper and lower
molar accessory traits, no evidence of protos54.54 tylid was recorded.
TABLE 6. Nonmetric mandibular dental traits
freauencies. in both sexes
Trait
N
Canine tubercle
Cusp number
M15
M14+
M14
M2 4 +
M2 4
M2 4M3 5
M3 4+
M3 4
M3 3 +
M3 3
Groove pattern
M1 Y
M2 Y
M2
F’rotostylid
M1
M2
23
+
22
33
22
+
12
2
8
5
24
4
2
4
11
3
2
16
25
16
20
5
28
33
-
9.09
36.36
15.15
72.73
12.12
9.09
18.18
50.00
13.64
9.09
100
80.00
20.00
-
In the lower dentition, canines did not show
ridges or basal enamel formations. The last
molar was again the most variable tooth in
cusp number; M1 and M2 more commonly
had five and four cusps, respectively. The
hypoconulid was never noted on second molars and only rarely occurred on third molars
(9.09%). No molar showed clear evidence of
entoconulid and metaconulid supernumerary cusps.
The groove pattern on mandibular molars
was clearly observed in a limited number of
cases only. The most common feature results
from the contact between metaconid (mesiolingual) and hypoconid (distobuccal) cusps
(Jorgensen, 1955), but contact among all the
Dental wear and oral health
The Ra’s al-Hamra dentitions were characterized by extremely heavy dental wear in
both sexes (Fig. l),especially if the low mean
age a t death is considered. Even in young
adults, the teeth appear to have suffered tremendous stresses, with radical alterations of
the normal occlusal patterns (Corruccini and
Macchiarelli, 1987). Contrary to Lovejoy’s
work on the Libben dental material (1985),
in which he found wear to be “extraordinarily regular in form and rate,” wear at Ra’s
al-Hamra proved to be inconsistent and uncorrelated with age. For example, a n experimental attempt a t individual relative age
attribution, originally performed in situ, gave
often poor results when compared to skeletal
indicators of age at death. In fact, not rarely,
15-18-years-old individuals and full adults
showed comparable wear patterns.
Occlusal surface forms and the quantity of
removed enamel (or emerging dentine) are
basically the products of complex interactions over time between individuals and their
environment, which relate to different habits
and cultural attitudes (Dahlberg, 1963; Molnar, 1972). In the present sample, the grit
involuntarily assimilated with dried fish, and
the high shellfish consumption, were probably the main mechanical stresses on the
dentitions. The anterior arches were also
PREHISTORIC DENTAL ANALYSIS FROM RA’S AL-HAMRA
Fig. 1. RH5-G-221, adult male. Left lateral view of
the articulated maxilla and mandible showing extreme
dental wear on premolars and molars, upper and lower
583
periapical lithic Iesions, and characteristic orientation
planes in molars.
probably employed in some manipulative ac- necting the hard palate to the maxillary sitivites (Macchiarelli. 1984: Macchiarelli and nuses). certainly cannot be underrated.
Periapical ly& lesions in association with
Frohlich, 1986). The synergistic action of
these factors rapidly resulted in dramatic ef- a generally heavier mandibular dental wear
fects on dental health status. In some in- were recorded mainly from around inferior
dividuals, these factors were probably re- molar and premolar roots. Notwithstanding
sponsible for serious hematogenously spread frequent root exposure, very few teeth per
mouth were lost intra vitam. This fact is
infections.
In a study focused on dental health ana- probably related to the low mean age at
lyzed in 12 successive samples from the 7th death. As in a previous study on a smaller
millennium BC in the eastern Mediterra- dental sample belonging t o the same gravenean, Angel (1974) discussed possible reper- yard (Grilletto, 1982),no carious lesions were
cussions on general health, concluding that found.
Wear rates (Tables 7 and 8 ) were estimated
“the data in this paper tend to negate that
idea.” However, among the prehistoric fish- by employing different record scales for inciermen under study, the individual deleteri- sors, canines, premolars (Molnar, 1971), and
ous potential action of pyogenic agents, molar teeth (Scott, 1979); occlusal form was
spread into the organism by multiple large assessed in all the crowns according to Molalveolar abscesses (in some cases even con- nar’s classification (1971). Consistent crown
-
-
-
-
-
5.26
-
-
-
%
2
I
%
-
9.09
15.79
3
6
3.23
-
3.23
18.18
6.82
10.53
7.89
2
-
1
-
1
6
3
4
3
N
‘The ordinal scale (1-8)refers to Molnar’s system (1971).
C
P3
P4
Mandibular
I1
I2
C
P3
P4
Iz
1
Maxillary
N
7
6
4
3
3
4
3
2
11
10
N
3
9.37
9.68
13.33
21.21
15.79
12.90
9.09
4.54
28.95
26.32
%
4
5
5
10
12
6
10
12
7
8
N
4
12.50
16.13
16.67
30.30
31.58
19.35
30.30
27.27
18.42
21.05
%
7
5
8
4
5
6
8
11
6
6
N
5
21.87
16.13
26.67
12.12
13.16
19.35
24.24
25.00
15.79
15.79
%
13
13
13
5
4
10
4
14
6
4
N
6
40.62
41.93
43.33
15.15
10.53
32.26
12.12
31.82
15.79
10.53
%
6.45
6.06
4.54
2.63
2.63
%
-
9.09
7.89
3
3
15.62
12.90
7
-
4
5
2
2
2
1
1
N
TABLE 7. Degree of dental wear in maxillary (upper) and mandibular (lower) teeth (molars not included), in the total sample’
1
2
-
-
3
4
2
-
N
-
6.45
%
3.03
5.26
-
-
-
7.89
10.53
8
9.76
20.45
47.62
4.35
16.67
25.81
4
9
10
2
7
8
%
6
7
10
4
7
4
N
7
9
10
13.04
16.67
32.26
N
4
14
5
%
9.76
15.91
19.05
11-15
'The ordinal scale (4-40) refers to Scott's system (1979).
Maxillary
M1
M2
M3
Mandibular
M1
M2
M3
N
%
15.22
21.43
32.26
9.76
31.82
23.81
16-20
6
10
3
6
2
12
N
%
13.04
23.81
9.68
29.27
13.64
9.52
21-25
5
-
12
-
3
5
N
-
26.09
11.90
-
%
7.32
11.36
26-30
-
7
4
-
9
3
N
-
15.22
9.52
-
%
21.95
6.82
31-35
TABLE 8. Degree of dental wear in maxillary (upper) and mandibular (lower) molars, in the total sample'
4-10
-
6
-
5
-
N
%
-
13.04
-
-
12.19
36-40
586
R. MACCHIARELLI
height reduction and secondary dentine
emergence are constant features of the Ra’s
al-Hamra anterior teeth. The anterior teeth
have mesiodistally directed flat or notched
occlusal surfaces and sometimes show a lingual-labial wear component, which is more
frequent on both upper incisors. In adults of
both sexes, anterior wear patterns suggest a
possible usage of the mouth as a “tool.” However, no grooves marking the occlusal surfaces of incisors or canines (Larsen, 1985)
were macroscopically noted. Well rounded
anterior teeth were found on upper dentitions only; rounded occlusal surfaces were
recorded on premolars of both the arches.
Wear frequency degrees of molar teeth were
arbitrarily divided into seven classes (Table
8)from 4 to 40 (Scott, 1979).Upper and lower
first and second molars commonly present
emerging secondary dentine and a notched
surface incompletely surrounded by a thin
enamel rim. In the numerous cases of complete dentine exposure, wear is frequently
extended below the cervicoenamel junction.
In young adults, the last molars also appear
to have been intensively involved in masticatory functions, with a t least two flat quadrants and emerging dentine patches.
Ubelaker and coworkers (1969) have suggested the use of “wooden probes” as therapeutic or palliative responses to relieve local
irritations. In agreement, thin and short
grooving were episodically observed on the
buccal aspect of lower molars.
Hinton (1981) compared form and patterning of dental wear in aboriginal human
groups with different subsistence economies.
He showed that in hunters and gatherers the
wear on the anterior teeth was consistently
equal to or greater than that on the molar
teeth. This was also well documented by Borgognini Tarli and Repetto (1985), in numerous Italian epipaleolithic and mesolithic
samples. Furthermore, molar wear equalled
or exceeded anterior wear only in old individuals; in agriculturalists anterior wear was
by and large less than molar wear (Hinton,
1981).
With respect to these reference models, the
general wear pattern offered by the present
prehistoric fishermen can be regarded a s intermediate, with posterior dentitions heavily
worn, in association with anterior arches also
strongly altered by numerous mechanical
stresses (such as those deriving from the high
shellfish consumption).
It is apparently more difficult to resolve the
patterns of molar occlusal orientation in the
Ra’s al-Hamra mandibular dentition, with
respect to the differentiated models defined
by Smith (1984) for hunter-gatherers and agriculturalists. Smith (1984) demonstrated
that, at low wear stages, no significant difference exists between the two groups in the
lower first molar orientation angle. However, when wear rates increase, significant
differences emerge. It is often assumed that
cupping results mainly from fine particles in
food (Costa and Greaves, 1981, cited by
Smith, 1984), and that rates of change are
basically higher in agriculturalists than in
hunter-gatherers (Smith, 1984). Accordingly,
the trend recorded among the Ra’s al-Hamra
fishermen in the orientation change of the
occlusal surfaces (from negative values in M3
to positive values in M1) suggests a wear
pattern globally compatible with agriculturalists. On the other hand, the sample is also
characterized by greater mandibular wear in
association with a greater occlusal variability in the maxillary molars. This pattern
agrees well with that found by Lovejoy (1985)
for a large hunter-gatherer sample. It thus
seems appropriate to consider the rapid and
drastic changes that occurred in the natural
morphology of the prehistoric Omani dentitions as essentially the product of a highly
abrasive grit action on the crowns, which
was independent of the nature of the food
regularly consumed.
DISCUSSION
The sedentary prehistoric community of
Ra’s al-Hamra lived in and exploited a n
oceanic coastal environment characterized by
a complex of potentially influential factors.
Although still under study, evidence related
to aspects of skeletal biology reflects some
difficulties, in terms of adaptive responses,
suffered by the Omani fishermen in maintaining a n adequate equilibrium with respect to the environmental stresses.
Therefore, a brief synthesis of these biological aspects seems appropriate to better understand some results of these dental data.
The Ra’s al-Hamra mortality pattern (resulting from the application of the “LIFE”
computing program to the whole of 132 individual age-at-death attributions) offers interesting critical evidence with respect to some
theoretical expectations. In a paper devoted
to the maritime hunter-gatherer ecology and
prehistory, Yesner (1980) stated that “because both old people and children were able
to engage in activities such as shellfish col-
PREHISTORIC DENTAL ANALYSIS FROM RA’S AL-HAMRA
lecting, and because they have lower caloric
requirements, they were virtually able to
support themselves in coastal zones and do
not act as a sump for the population’s resources. Therefore, in any maritime society
in which shellfish or other invertebrates are
a n important resource, dependency ratios
tend to be lower, population pyramids
broader, life expectancies higher.”
At Ra’s al-Hamra, in spite of the low number of children aged between 0 and 5 years
(20.46%) found preserved in the archaeological deposit (Coppa et al., 1985; Macchiarelli
and Coppa, 19831, eoo life expectancies
scarcely reach 19 years. Almost 26% of the
individuals died within the 20-25 year age
interval. At the start of the fourth decade,
13.64% of the population was still alive &a),
with a life expectancy of only 8.33 more years
and a 0.44 q30 value.
Critical comments on some of Yesner’s
(1980) demographic generalizations were also
expressed by Clark (1981), when he noted
that “demographic-stress variables should be
taken into consideration on a case-by-case
basis.” In association with a critical demographic profile, extreme skeletal gracility in
subadults and strong retardation of growth
(both resulting in a generally low degree of
sexual dimorphism in adults), point to the
action of developmental disturbances from
environmental constraints, including limiting resources and stressors. For instance,
rickets were recorded in youths and osteomalacia in adults, particularly in the graveyard area named “G-43.”
According to Yesner (19801, “human populations living in coastal areas display a high
availability of edible biomass,” and “shellfish are another critical resource for coastal
populations, since they exist as highly concentrated resource, are easily collectable by
all segments of the human population with a
minimum of energy input, and often serve as
a n emergency b d e r during times of relative
food scarcity.” Furthermore, Tosi (1986)
stated that, in the prehistoric Arabian peninsula, “a second and even larger permanent
biomass was available from the ocean, the
belt of tropical waters surrounding the peninsula. Each of the several ecological compartments forming a maritime environment
(rockylsandy shorelines, tidal creeks and
flats, littoral and pelagic waters) provided a
reliable supply of fish and molluscs all year
round, supplemented by more seasonal turtles and marine mammals.”
The RH5 site archaeological deposits pre-
587
served great quantities of both mollusc and
fish remains, but cases of cranial porotic hyperostosis and cribra orbitalia were also
found. These conditions are possible indicators of metabolic disorders related to nutritional stress. Widening of the spongy diploe
and cribra orbitalia interpreted as changes
from malaria and hemoglobin-derived anemias were also recorded by Kunter (1981) in
the Bronze and Iron Age skeletal material
from the Omani interior oasis of Maysar.
An alternative interpretation offered by
Walker (1986) for a marine-dependent California Amerindian population generally appears more appropriate for the Ra’s alHamra’s palaeobiological context (see also
Martin et al., 1985). These workers propose
a n interaction between chronic diarrhea, exposure to fish-borne parasites, prolonged
breast feeding, and protein-caloric malnutrition that could have been largely responsible
for stresses resulting in pathological skeletal
changes. Moreover, the role of mangrove
swamp pathogenic agents on the fishermen’s
health still has to be fully evaluated, but it
is possible to speculate that it was seasonally
intense. Together, the skeletal markers tend
to lead to revision of the optimistic figures
described by Yesner (1980) and Tosi (1986) in
terms of quality (and quantity) of edible biomass available for prehistoric fishermen
communities living in tropical coastal zones.
Since genetic factors also play a n important role in resistance to certain diseases
(Goodman et al., 19841, a n important biological indicator of genetic isolation and stress
at Ra’s al-Hamra can be considered. There is
a n extremely high incidence of dehiscence of
the crista sacralis mediana, a defect known
as spina bifida occulta (Cavalli Sforza and
Bodmer, 1971; Fuhrmann et al., 1971; Gates,
1946).
With respect to previous estimations
(Coppa et al., 1985; Macchiarelli and Coppa,
1983),more recent evaluations (performed on
a total of 32 available sacral bones), showed
five individuals with complete sacral defects
(15.62%).A partial manifestation of the trait
(involvment of at least two arches) was observed in a further 18 cases (56.25%). Despite
some criticism by Devor and Cordell (1981)
on the defect’s etiology, a high spina bifida
occulta frequency in archaeological samples
is commonly considered a n indicator of genetic isolation and inbreeding (Bennett, 1972;
Castro de La Mata and Bonavia, 1980; Ferembach, 1962, 1963; Morse, 1978). In addition, humeral septa1 perforation is frequent
588
R. MACCHIARELLI
Summarized Dental Areas (C - M 3 )
M a x i 1 I a r y a nd M a nd i b u I a r d e n ti ti o ns
comparative va ues
’
7LEGEND
B
1
Maxillary t e e t h
470
Nat.
M.Nu. Jar. A.Go. Mahr. RH5
Prehistoric samples
A.Nu.
Fig. 2. Values (in mm2) of the maxillary and mandibular summarized dental areas (including canine and
third molar) in the Ra’s al-Hamra sample @H5) compared to those recorded for other eastern African (M.Nu.,
A.Nu.) and near-Middle Eastern mat., Jar., A.Go., Mehr.)
prehistoric samples. The values refer to both sexes. Samples in chronological order. Nat., epipaleolithic Natufians (XI-X mill. BC); M.Nu. mesolithic Nubians (XI-VIII
mill. BC); Jar, early Jarmo agriculturalists 6’11 mill. BC);
A,&, early Abou Gosh agriculturalists (VII mill. BC);
Mehr., early neolithic Mehrgarh (VII mill. BC); RH5,
mesolithic Ra’s al-Hamra (V-IV mill. BC); A.Nu., Nubian
agriculturalists (IV-I1 mill. BC). See text for the data
resources. With respect also to the samples representing
early “food producers” (Jar., A.Go., Mehr., A.Nu.1, the
Ra’s al-Hamra mesolithic one systematically shows the
lowest values.
(32.84%). This trait is another skeletal indicator that supports the hypothesis that genetic drift was operating in the community
(Cavicchi et al., 1978).
It is well known that dental “developmental instability increases with the increase of deleterious genetic effects and
adverse environmental effects” (Biggerstaff,
1979). The interest in considering skeletal
indicators of stress and isolation in the prehistoric Ra’s al-Hamra fishermen lies in the
possible relapse of the same adverse constraints on dental crown development. The
dental variability patterns, as well as some
morphologic and morphometric aspects, have
consequently to be considered in a restricted,
local biological context. Moreover, according
to Bailit (1966),female dental metrics appear
commonly “ambiguous” in inbred samples,
not completely following the male variability
pattern. At Ra’s al-Hamra, in addition to the
limited sample size, this would explain the
numerous anomalies observed in the variability distribution within each dental morphological class, particularly evident in the
female sex. Unfortunately, despite some interesting odontometric analysis performed on
Bronze and Iron Age Arabian human remains (Hojgaard, 1980a,b, 1983a), no comparative statistical analyses are possible at
present because of the extremely small sample size.
At Ra’s al-Hamra, a marked and prolonged
genetic isolation possibly influenced the dental morphological trait frequencies. With few
exceptions only, great differences are notable
PREHISTORIC DENTAL ANALYSIS FROM RA’S AL-HAMRA
in comparison to both eastern African and
near-Middle Eastern prehistoric populations.
For example, very high frequencies of shovelshaped upper incisors were recorded by
Greene (1972) in mesolithic Nubia (78.00%
on 111, by Lukacs and Sellier (1986) in early
neolithic Pakistan (89.30% on I1 and 83.80%
on 121, and by Bentley (1987) in early Bronze
Age Jordan (67.44% on I1 and 81.82% on 12).
This morphology was never noted at Ra’s alHamra. In spite of the frequently practiced
evulsion of both upper and central incisors,
shovelling was occasionally observed also in
the Saggai 1 mesolithic Sudanese material
(Coppa and Macchiarelli, 1983). Other significant differences regard the Carabelli’s trait,
which is very common on the upper first molar a t Bab edh-Dhra’ (Bentley, 1987) and also
frequent at Mehrgarh (Lukacs and Sellier,
1986) as well as the protostylid on the lower
M1. Conversely, a greater homogeneity involves both the cusp number and pattern in
molars, including also modern East African
frequencies (Chagula, 1960). On the basis of
the preliminary anthropological investigations of the Omani skeletal material (Coppa
et al., 1985; Macchiarelli and Coppa, 1983),
other significant affinities with African populations can also be noted in the general
cranial and lower face morphology. A factor
of extreme anthropological interest emerges
when the tooth sizes of the Ra’s al-Hamra
community (Table 3) is compared to those
available from some eastern African and
near-Middle Eastern prehistoric samples.
Figure 2 shows, for both upper and lower
dentition, the comparative values of the summarized dental areas recorded for the posterior dentition (including canine and last
molar) in the epipaleolithic Natufians (Nat.,
XI-X millenia BC; Bar-Yosef et al., 1971-72),
mesolithic Nubians (M.Nu., XI-VIII millenia
BC; Cakagno, 1986; Greene et al., 1967),early
Jarmo agriculturalists (Jar., early VII millenium BC; Dahlberg, 19601, early Abou Gosh
agriculturalists (AGO., VII millenium BC;
Arensburg et al., 1978), early neolithic Mehrgarh (Mehr., late VII millenium BC; Lukacs,
1983b, 1985a1, mesolithic Rats al-Hamra
(RH5, V-N millenia BC; present data), and
Nubian agriculturalists (A.Nu., IV-I1 millenia BC: Cakagno, 1986).
Despite the fact that the comparison includes four groups of well documented “food
producers” (Jarmo, Abou Gosh, Mehrgarh,
and Nubian agriculturalists), the Ra’s alHamra mesolithic group systematically
589
shows the smallest values in both arches.
The greatest percent differences in dental
size are seen with respect to the mesolithic
Nubian mandibular dentition (- 15.76%) but
differences are also appreciable with respect
to the Nubian agriculturalists (-4.49% and
-4.96%, in maxillary and mandibular dentitions, respectively).
With regard to this African group of Nubian agriculturalists (chronologically representing the most recent dental sample in the
present series), it must be considered that
“the bulk of dental reduction that occurred
in Nubia took place between the Mesolithic
and Agriculturalist period” (Calcagno, 1986).
Moreover, in originally describing the mesolithic Nubian sample (M.Nu.), Greene and
coworkers (1967) stated that dentition “was
subjected to rigorous selective pressures favoring large and/or morphologically complex
teeth. This pressure was apparently intensive wear presumably caused by the inclusion of large amounts of grit in the diet.” In
spite of the fact that all the available archaeological and odontological evidence supports
the hypothesis that similar selective forces
must have also acted on the Raysal-Hamra
dentition, it is evident that this did not occur.
On the contrary, a s was shown above, the
teeth are particularly reduced in size, especially when the “preagricultural” Omani
context is considered.
To date, the anthropological remains of the
Ra’s al-Hamra fishermen constitute the most
ancient group excavated in the Arabian Peninsula. Therefore, nothing is known about
teeth size and body size of their predecessors.
However, based on consolidated models for
numerous diacronic researches on “linear”
skeletal series, it is reasonable to suppose
that both teeth and body sizes were larger.
A general trend towards a gradual dental
structural reduction throughout time is very
well documented in human evolution, as well
as a drastic acceleration of the phenomenon
in post-Pleistocene times (Anderson and Popovich, 1977; Anderson et al., 1975; Brace,
1978; Brace and Mahler, 1971; Brace and
Nagai, 1982; Brace and Ryan, 1980; Brace et
al., 1984; Calcagno, 1986; Frayer, 1977,1978,
1984; Larsen, 1981,1983; LeBlanc and Black,
1974; Lukacs, 1982, 1984; Macchiarelli and
Bondioli, 1986a; Smith, 1978; Y’Edynak,
1978).
Possibly depending on larger and better
represented samples, the most recent acceleration of the trend has traditionally been
590
R. MACCHIARELLI
observed (and consequently interpreted) with
an attentive eye to the transition from
hunter-gatherers to agriculturalists.
The data discussed in this paper refer only
to 49 individuals. However, the dental evidence collected at Ra’s al-Hamra is clearly
not explained by a strict use of these two
extreme reference “focal poles” (Cleland,
1976).The analysis of Figure 2 suggests that
the mesolithic Omanites had already undergone a consistent tooth size reduction, although they were not agriculturalists.
With particular regard to the most recent
and intensive phase of the structural reduction process in human dentition, Macchiarelli and Bondioli (1984, 1986b) interpreted
the phenomenon mainly as a side effect of a
more general reduction trend occurring specifically in body size and build. This theoretical approach emphasizes primarily the role
of biocultural factors that followed sedentism
and the gradual local density increment of
groups (number of people per settlement).
These biocultural factors probably modified
the directionality of selection pressures previously operating and directly influenced a
potential size expressivity of the genetic
background. Thus, during the most recent
evolutionary times, the role played by directional selective forces in expressely favoring
large teeth would have to be redirected. Following some of Leamy’s (1978) experimental
conclusions on animal dentitions, it is still
far from being clearly demonstrated that a n
appreciable difference in fitness is conferred
by having different-sized teeth, especially in
the chronological and cultural horizons in
which the trend’s acceleration is expressed.
In opposition to numerous current interpretations, the authors then suggested that
the last accentuated phase of the trend possibly derived from the synergistic sum of two
actions: “that of selective pressures directly
affecting the lean body-mass (not the crude
dental size), and that of stress factors operating against a full genotype penetrance in
determining the size. The relative weight of
each of these elements is to be considered
inconstant, conditioned, and intimately
linked to local microprocesses” (Macchiarelli
and Bondioli, 1986b).According to this model,
marked structural reduction in body mass,
and consequently in dental size, occurred
during a gradual transition from locally
smaller human groups, characterized by
lower density and regional mobility, to large
communities, characterized by a sedentary
(or semisedentary) style of life, in association
with a higher and in creasing population
density.
The Ra’s al-Hamra prehistoric fishermen
were sedentary and probably conditioned for
a long time by marked and prolonged stress
factors in a n isolated oceanic coastal environment. This human group, therefore, is a valid
test for the speculative model of structural
reduction, originally defined as ‘increasing
population density effect” (Macchiarelli and
Bondioli, 1984). This study approach is not
rigidly subordinated to the role of “agriculture” as traditionally the main agent responsible for dental changes (see, for example,
Brace and Mahler, 1971). In fact, in the prehistoric coastal environment of the Arabian
Peninsula, a gradual shift to sedentism (in
association with a related increase in site
number and population density) specifically
resulted in a n intensive exploitation of the
ocean and ocean-related natural resources,
not in intensive agriculture. In this case,
marked dental structural reduction probably
occurred during this biocultural shift process.
CONCLUSIONS
As was stressed by Biagi and coworkers
(19841, archaeological explorations have historically been restricted to very few sites,
along the 6,000 km of coastlands from Mesopotamia to Egypt. Fortunately, a t least from
1973, a second generation of studies was locally directed to the analysis of indigenous
developments, during the 4th and 3th millennia BC, in the oasis belt of the Oman Peninsula, as well as in some Arabian Gulf
islands (Cleuziou, 1978-79, 1982, Cleuziou
and Vogt, 1983, 1985; Frifelt, 1975; Vogt,
1985; Weisgerber, 1980,1981). An exhaustive
overview, including more than 300 references, was recently provided by Tosi (1986).
These pilot researches brought to light some
skeletal series, and anthropological reports
(including odontological studies) are in some
cases available (El-Najjar, 1985; Hojgaard,
1980a,b, 1983a, 1985; Kunter, 1981, 1983;
Macchiarelli, 1985).
Agriculture is well documented in the interior Arabian regions from the early 3th
millennium BC (Cleuziou and Costantini,
1980, 19821, with evident effects on the general oral health status of the oasis populations (Hojgaard, 1985; Kunter, 1983;
Macchiarelli, 1985). Qualitative differences
are notable with respect to the Ra’s al-Hamra
PREHISTORIC DENTAL ANALYSIS FROM RA’S AL-HAMRA
data, which reflect alternative man-environment relationships (Macchiarelli, 1985).
At present, the largest protohistorical human skeletal sample excavated in Arabia belongs to the 3th millennium BC Umm an-Nar
collective megalithic tomb from Hili North
(Cleuziou and Vogt, 1983, 1985; Vogt, 1985).
Dental observations on the material still partially in situ were made almost simultaneously by two different observers (El-Najjar,
1985; Macchiarelli, 1985). Curiously, they offered two different general pictures of the
same situation. El-Najjar (1985) found “no
evidence of severe dental wear, periodontal
disease and dental caries,” whereas Macchiarelli (1985:42-43) reported that “the analysis of the skeletons lying on the basal level
of the third burial chamber unequivocally
shows the effects of dental decay. . . . with
almost all the individuals frequently presenting multiple carious lesions, responsible
for a great number of teeth lost intra vitam.”
Unfortunately, further anthropological
studies on this unique material are at present difficult, but the Hili North skeletons, in
studying the development of biocultural alternative styles of life, may represent a crucial reference point in the Arabian Peninsula.
Furthermore, the scattered comparative results of the last years on other near-eastern
prehistoric and protohistorical populations
(Bentley, 1987; Frohlich and Ortner, 1982,
Lukacs, 1983a,c, 1984, 1985a,b; Ortner, 1981,
1982), will perhaps permit a better anthropological record for ancient Arabia. However, the Ra’s al-Hamra skeletal material
still represents only a n isolated case, certainly not enough, by itself, to answer some
fundamental questions, such as those concerning the origin, evolution, and biological
relationships of the Arabian people. For this
purpose, greater efforts developed on the traditionally ignored western Arabian side will
be essential.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
I thank the following people for their valuable criticisms and advice offered during the
excavation and particularly the study of the
Ra’s al-Hamra skeletal material: Dr. L. Bondioli (Museo Pigorini, Rome), Prof. S. Borgognini Tarli (Istituto di Antropologia, Pisa), Dr.
R.S. Corruccini (Dept. of Anthropology,
Southern Illinois University), Dr. A.A. Dahlberg (Dept. of Anthropology, University of
Chicago), Dr. D.W. Frayer (Dept. of Anthropology, University of Kansas), Dr. B. Froh-
591
lich and Dr. D.J. Ortner (Smithsonian Inst.,
Washington, DC), Prof. P. Passarello (Dip.
Biologia Animale e dell Uomo, Rome), and
Dr. S. Salvatori (Soprintendenza Beni Arch.,
Venice), the archaeologist responsible for the
RH5 graveyard excavations. In particular,
Prof. S. Borgognini Tarli, Dr. R.S. Corruccini, Dr. D.W. Frayer, and Prof. P. Passarello
provided also special critical comments on
the final version of the present paper. Dr.
R.S. Corruccini and Dr. D.K. Evans (Dept. of
Anthropology, Wake Forest University)
kindly invited me to offer a n official presentation about the preliminary results of this
odontological study during a visit in their
departments in 1985. Data elaborations (including preliminary paleodemographic profiles) were basically performed a t the
Smithsonian Institution of Washington, DC,
with the generous collaboration offered by
Dr. B. Frohlich. Special thanks are offered to
my Superintendent in Chieti, Dr. G. Scichilone (Soprintendenza Archeologica dell’
Abruzzo), for always having facilitated my
long periods of field excavations in Oman
during the last years as well as to the Ministero per i Beni Culturali e Ambientali for
their permissions. Dr. S. Cleuziou (C.N.R.S.,
URA 30, Paris) invited and supported my
field study of the protohistorical human skeletal material from Hili site (United Arab
Emirates), offering a n important data base
for comparative purposes. Without the initial
help of Prof. M. Tosi (Istituto Universitario
Orientale, Naples) and Dr. A. Coppa (Dip.
Biologia Animale e dell’Uomo, Rome), this
research would not have been possible. However, the results presented here are my own,
despite the contributions of my previous collaborators. The present study is part of a
“Progetto Strategico,” directed by Prof. P.
Passarello (University of Rome) in collaboration with the Istituto Italian0 per il Medio ed
Estremo Oriente (IsMEO, Rome), supported
by a grant of the Italian C.N.R.
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