Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Fred H. Smith

Committee Members

William M. Bass, R. L. Jantz, Walter E. Klippel


There may exist bilateral asymmetry in tooth size in which neither side tends to be larger within a population. Such a bilaterally random distribution of asymmetry is called fluctuating dental asymmetry. One of its major causes is the exposure of individuals to stress during the time of tooth formation. Stressors known to increase fluctuating dental asymmetry are protein deficiency, heat, cold, and noise; there are probably many others as yet undiscovered.

This study explores the patterns of fluctuating dental asymmetry at the Averbuch site, a Mississippian village and three cemeteries near Nashville, Tennessee. The effects of tooth size, dentition type, sex, and cemetery affiliation on dental asymmetry are examined. Regression analysis shows that there is a scaling effect of tooth size on asymmetry, necessitating that tooth size be corrected for before the other factors are examined. Analysis of correlation coefficients reveals that four pairs of deciduous teeth are significantly less symmetrical and two pairs are significantly more symmetrical than the permanent antimeres. Analysis of correlation coefficients and ANOVA reveal that females are somewhat more symmetrical than males, suggesting that they are developmentally more stable than males.

Although it is difficult to interpret the meaning of the deciduous-permanent differences, both types of dentition show the same intercemetery patterns of dental asymmetry. Cemetery 2 (undatable) is the most asymmetrical, Cemetery 3 is the least asymmetrical, and Cemetery 1 is intermediate in its rank of asymmetry. Archeological evidence suggests that Cemetery 1 is younger than Cemetery 3. These findings support the hypothesis of increasing population pressure in the Nashville Basin at the time of the site's occupation. However, the true temporal relationship of the cemeteries is not known for certain. Further statements await the analysis of archeological materials recovered from the site.

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