Dental caries at a late pre-Hispanic regional Maya capital

S Serafin

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting abstract


A number of analyses of human dental remains from the Maya realm have demonstrated a peak in caries rates around the time of the collapse of Classic Period (300–900AD) civilization in the 8th and 9th centuries. This has been interpreted as the result of agricultural intensification and increased reliance on maize brought on by population pressure, an argument bolstered by stable isotope analyses demonstrating higher levels of C4 plants in the diet. Less is known about the succeeding Postclassic Period (900–1500AD), in particular if maize agriculture regained its prior importance. This paper presents findings from analysis of dental caries at the largest Postclassic Maya city and regional capital of Mayapán located in the northwest corner of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Interproximal cervical caries predominate, as in earlier periods. However, overall incidence is lower, affecting only 10.3% of teeth (N=646) in adults. Similar results have been reported for a contemporaneous regional capital in the highlands of southern Guatemala, while incidence in some intervening areas in Belize and northern Guatemala returned to Classic Period levels. These differences are maintained when sex, age and tooth types are controlled for. This suggests greater diversity in subsistence regimes in the Maya area following, and possibly in response to, the Classic Period collapse.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-218
Number of pages2
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes
EventAustralasian Society for Human Biology Annual Conference (23rd : 2009) - Kingstown Barracks, WA
Duration: 1 Dec 20094 Dec 2009


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