Dental pathology profile of pre-European Maori and Moriori
An interest in the health and disease of past populations and how they may be influenced by factors such as diet, environment and culture are major themes of current bioarchaeological research. This thesis addresses questions relating to the dental health of past New Zealanders by examining evidence of dental wear, calculus, caries, periodontal disease, periapical infection and antemortem tooth loss, in order to construct a Dental Pathology Profile or DPP. Collections of pre-European Maori and Moriori skeletal remains from museums and institutions in New Zealand and in Europe were examined for evidence of their sex, age, stature and geographic affiliation to build individual life histories and clarify variations in the occurrence and frequency of dental disease. This data is then analyzed within the biocultural context of pre-European Maori and Moriori diet, environment and culture. Present evidence points to a short prehistoric sequence for Maori and Moriori and the biology, culture and diet of both populations share many similarities with each other and with their East Polynesian ancestors. Although there is evidence for changes in settlement and diet, much of New Zealand’s prehistory (from around 1500 AD) is characterized by a high degree of mobility, necessary to exploit the many varied micro-environments, and by seasonality, with the preservation, storage and trade and exchange of foodstuffs integral in most areas. Overall, the diet was highly abrasive with an emphasis on marine exploitation supported by numerous wild and semi-cultivated plant foods including the roots of various ferns, by various birds and marine mammals, and by agricultural crops grown where possible and traded elsewhere. The results of the examination of dental pathology indicate that both Maori and Moriori showed little evidence of calculus, caries, or periodontal disease but did experience moderate-severe levels of wear which likely led to the high frequencies of intrabony defects and antemortem tooth loss observed. There is little evidence for differences in the frequency of dental disease by sex, or by provenance however most increased in frequency or severity with age. This suggests little difference in diet overall by sex or by regional affiliation. When levels of dental pathology are combined into a DPP, the results indicate it is not possible to categorise pre-European Maori and Moriori as either hunter-gatherers or agriculturalists. Instead the subsistence strategy of both groups was complex, incorporating elements of various subsistence strategies so they may be best described more generally as maritime hunter-gatherers.
Advisor: Walter, Richard; Kieser, Jules
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Anthropology and Archaeology
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: bioarchaeology; New Zealand; pre-European; Maori; Moriori; diet; dental health
Research Type: Thesis