Division of labor by sex and age in Neandertals: an approach through the study of activity-related dental wear.
The analysis of activity-related dental wear patterns in prehistoric anatomically modern humans and modern hunter-gatherers has shown sex differences attributable to a gendered division of labor. Neandertals are known to have extensive anterior dental wear related to the use of their front teeth as a tool. In this study we analyze the i) cultural striations (scratches on the labial surface of the anterior teeth with a cut-mark morphology), and ii) dental chipping (ante-mortem microfracture involving enamel or both enamel and dentine) in 19 Neandertal individuals from the l'Hortus (France), Spy (Belgium), and El Sidrón (Spain) sites, and compare the characteristics of those traits with the age and sex estimation for the individuals and among samples. The study reveals that all individuals have cultural striations, but those detected on the adult females are longer than the striations found in adult males. Regarding the distribution of dental chipping, the prevalence of this trait is higher in the maxillary dentition of males whereas females have the majority of dental chipping on their mandibular teeth. The differences detected on the overall activity-related dental wear pattern denote a difference or a division of labor by age and sex in Neandertals while using the mouth as a third hand, i.e., in activities other than the provisioning of food, and provide new evidence for the lifestyle of this Pleistocene fossil human species.