Dental Anthropology Group

Research Overview

The effects of life events and population ancestry on teeth and the craniofacial skeleton are the main research focus of this group. Research is conducted by an interdisciplinary group of anatomists, dental and biological anthropologists, clinical dentists and specialists and earth scientists. We focus on evidence of diet and disease in mineralised tissues, changes in mineralised tissue features caused by trauma, disease and other life events, as well as ancestry traits in dental and craniofacial morphology.

Techniques employed include microCT, enamel isotope investigations, nanoCT, cranio- and odontometrics, TOF-SIMS and microscopy.

Current Projects

Life History in Dental Microstructure

This project proposes a highly innovative analytical technique for establishing life history parameters of mineralisation of tooth cementum increments, within the context of larger human populations through time. The aims of the project are: 1. To determine life history parameters, such as life-expectancy and ageing profiles of a medieval population in the Dici necropolis, Serbia. 2. To use isotopic analyses with Bayesian time-series modelling to test existing assumptions concerning life history parameters derived from cemetery data, integrating radiocarbon (δ14C) with δ¹³C and δ¹⁵N isotope results obtained from targeted individuals in the Dici necropolis.

The project’s objective is to develop a powerful new tool for life history researchers across disciplines.

Primary Investigator: Dr Marija Edinborough

Keeping up with dental development

Our group is interested in the timing of dental development. How this development differs in population groups all over the world, and how the timing of dentition development has changed over time has an effect on estimating the age of unknown human remains, both from an archaeological and forensic perspective. This new project will determine the accuracy of current dental development age estimation, and aims to develop updated standards for an Australian context. This project is available at PhD level.

Primary Investigator/Supervisor: Dr Sophie Beckett, Cranfield Forensics Institute (Honorary Fellow, Melbourne Dental School)

Co-investigator/Supervisor: Dr Rita Hardiman

Marvellous Melbourne Dental Health, Disease and Lifestyles

This project involves a multi-disciplinary research approach to investigate aspects of health, disease and lifestyle of Melburnians in the period from c. 1880-1930. Based on a collection of extracted teeth from an archaeological dig find, it involves studying the dental morphology, structure of teeth and any dental treatment, as well as physical indicators of daily activities (tobacco smoking, teeth as implements or tools). This program of research is in its initial stages, and aspects of the research are available as Honours, Masters or PhD projects.

Dental Calculus, Diet and Life Activity

This project involves the investigation of microscopic inclusions in modern calculus samples, and how they relate to an individual’s diet. Ancient calculus samples are investigated to find micro-inclusions or microfossils, the presence of which are used to indicate diet and feeding practices. This study aims to investigate the relationship between the micro-inclusion evidence of diet in calculus samples and an individual’s normal diet. This project is available at Masters level.

Primary Investigator/Supervisor: Dr Rita Hardiman

Co-Investigator/Supervisor: Prof. Ivan Darby

Staff

Dr. Rita Hardiman

Dr. Sophie Beckett (Honorary Fellow)

Dr. Sam Byrne

Dr. Pam Craig (honorary)

Dr. Felicity Crombie

Dr. Marija Edinborough

Associate Professor (Clinical) Mark Evans

Ms Angela Goh (PhD student)

Dr. Jacky Healy

Professor. David Manton

Ms. Julie Owen

Professor Peter Parashos

Dr. Louise Shewan

Prof. Alastair Sloan

Mr. David Thomas (honorary)