Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Murray K. Marks

Committee Members

R.L. Jantz, David C. Jay, William M. Bass


This dissertation reconstructs subsistence patterns of the inhabitants of Averbuch, a prehistoric late Mississippian culture, using SEM (scanning electron microscopy) to quantitatively assess the dental microwear of the permanent adult second mandibular molar of a selected skeletal sample from the Averbuch archaeological site. A comparison among the patterns of the Averbuch and those reported from other prehistoric sites in the United States is presented. The study uses the mesiolingual cusp (metaconid) tip facet (Kay and Hiiemae, 1974) of the mandibular permanent second molar to measure dental microwear features. Every cusp in the human mouth has an occlusal relationship to the corresponding dentition revealed by wear facets. Like cusps, wear facets can be identified and studied and differences in the shape, size, and position of the cusps result in the difference and size of the wear facets which reflect evolutionary change in the molar function (Jordan et al., 1992). The Averbuch series offered a unique opportunity since no published microwear analysis of any Middle Cumberland Culture of a Mississippian "manifestation" exists. Averbuch represents three distinct cemeteries; two which may be contemporaneous; the third predating the first and second. Since, the site was only occupied for about 50 - 100 years (Eisenberg, 1986; Konigsberg and Frankenberg, 1995) any dietary changes within that time, as well as any quantifiable differences between sexes, among/between cemeteries, among age groups, and along the age continuum are discussed. SEM results were compared to the local/regional archaeological flora and faunal. This study addresses the following questions:

1. Are there quantifiable sex differences in dental microwear?

2. Are there quantifiable age differences in dental microwear?

3. Are there dietary differences among ages observed by dental microwear?

4. What are the intra and inter-cemetery differences in diet and are these

differences related to sex and/or age?

How consistent are the dental microwear patterns and features within this population? What is the relative amount of vegetable matter in the diet? What does the relative amount of vegetable matter in the diet say about the regional Mississippian subsistence in general, and specifically, about the Averbuch population?

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."

Included in

Anthropology Commons