Physiological Stress in Prehistoric India: New Data on Localized Hypoplasia of Primary Canines Linked to Climate and Subsistence Change
Approaches to the origin, character, and decline of the Jorwe Culture of prehistoric western India rely heavily on the interpretation of substantial archaeological and paleoclimatological evidence. A prominent feature of the Jorwe Culture at Inamgaon is the Late Jorwe phase (period III; 1100–700BC) which experienced climatic deterioration (aridity), cultural degeneration and a subsistence shift toward nomadism. The archaeological perspective envisions culture change during the Late Jorwe as an environmentally induced decline in economic status accompanied by a subsistence shift that included greater reliance on hunting and foraging. The language of choice by archaeologists describing the nature of the transition from Early to Late Jorwe has a pejorative tone insinuating that the changes described are largely for the worse. The objective of this study is to utilize new data on developmental defects of the primary teeth to evaluate levels of physiological stress in infants and children during the transition from Early to Late Jorwe Periods at Inamgaon. Does the degree of documented change in climate, culture, and subsistence have a measurable impact on growth and development of primary teeth? How does the prevalence of enamel hypoplastic defects at Inamgaon correlate with other measures of physiological stress and with cultural variations? To answer these questions a sample of 762 teeth and developing dental germs were observed for evidence of linear enamel hypoplasia (LEH) and localized hypoplasia of primary canine teeth (LHPC). Scoring of enamel defects followed standards recommended by the Federation Dentaire Internationale. The primary canine sample comprised a total of 141 teeth, from 66 individuals. All primary teeth were examined with oblique incandescent light and a record was made of all enamel defects, including size and location on affected teeth. This analysis found that primary enamel defects were almost exclusively LHPC, and that very few individuals displayed LEH or other types of enamel defect. Thirty-nine percent of Inamgaon specimens and 28% of primary canine teeth exhibit evidence of LHPC. Side differences in prevalence do not occur, but mandibular canines display LHPC significantly more often than maxillary isomeres. The more numerous Late Jorwe sample shows a significantly lower prevalence of LHPC, an observation that agrees with better bone growth, increased dietary diversity and higher protein intake. While archaeological reference to climatic, cultural, and subsistence changes at Inamgaon as reflecting degeneration, deterioration, and decadence, may be justified, using these adjectives to describe the health, growth and nutrition status changes from Early to Late Jorwe is inappropriate. The Late Jorwe people of Inamgaon may have been “poorer” in material culture, but display several indicators of improved skeletal and dental development that suggest lower levels of physiological stress.