EUROTAST Fellow Erna Johannesdottir presented at the 17th Annual Conference of the British Associate for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology September 2015 in Sheffield.
Her presentation, African dental modification practices in the era of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade was presented with EUROTAST Research Supervisor, Kate Robson Brown.
Title: African dental modification practices in the era of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade
Abstract: This biocultural study investigates the practice of dental modification in Sub-Saharan Africa during the era of the transatlantic slave trade and combines bioarchaeological and ethnohistorical data in order to explore the variation and significance of the custom in Africa and the African diaspora. The research builds on the analysis of skeletal remains from a recent excavation on the island of Saint Helena which revealed the largest assemblage of African dental modification found in an archaeological context, with 114 individuals having their incisors modified. These intentionally modified teeth are distinctive because of their symmetric appearance and the deliberate patterns formed with two or more teeth.
Analysis of microwear features were carried out using scanning electronic microscopy and light microscopy in order to investigate the ways in which the modification was produced, with the main difference appearing in chiselling and polishing methods. Furthermore, examination of ethnohistorical material for example: photographs, artwork and ethnographies has been conducted to shed light on demographic and geographical variation, and explore the meaning behind altering the body in such a way.