For years this rare, early anatomically modern human skeleton was thought to be that of a girl because her wisdom teeth had not erupted, an event that typically occurs between 18 and 22 years of age. New analysis of Magdalenian Girl's bones, however, has lead Field Museum scientists to conclude that she was not a girl but actually a 25- to 35-year-old woman at the time of her death.
Examination of new high-quality digital X-rays revealed that the wisdom teeth were, in fact, impacted, and had thus failed to erupt at the normal time. This is significant because impacted wisdom teeth are thought to be the result of dietary changes associated with later developments in human cultures.
Impaction was unknown during the stone ages, scientists say, due to the coarse diet of the period. This coarse diet would have required more chewing and higher bite forces, which could have stimulated growth of the jawbone and thereby created more room for the wisdom teeth to erupt.
"Finding impacted wisdom teeth 15,000 years ago indicates that the human diet might have already changed, some would say 'deteriorated,' earlier than previously thought," said Robert D. Martin, Field Museum provost and primatologist.
Wisdom teeth are the common name for the third molars. There are usually four wisdom teeth (one in each row of teeth), and they grow in behind the second molars provided they are properly aligned and there is enough room for them.
Martine, together with William Pestle, Field Museum Collection Manager and bone specialist, and Drs. Michael Colvard and Richard Jurevic of the College of Dentistry at the University of Illinois at Chicago, determined that Magdalenian Girl was a woman by employing new tools and technol
Contact: Greg Borzo