THE HUMAN DENTAL REMAINS FROM ARCHAEOLOGICAL EXCAVATIONS ON RATHLIN ISLAND, COUNTY ANTRIM, NORTHERN IRELAND (some editing due).

Posted on November 7, 2012

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By Catryn Power.

SOME OBSERVATIONS ON THE PREHISTORIC DENTAL REMAINS FROM RATHLIN, ISLAND, COUNTY ANTRIM, NORTHERN IRELAND.

During large scale gravel extraction on Rathlin Island in 1983 human burials dated to the Bronze Age were discovered. Subsequently archaeological excavation in 1983 and 1984 by Dr. Ken Wiggins revealed long cist graves containing skeletal remains. The analysis of the human skeletal remains were examined by Valerie Higgins. While the author was in Northern Ireland examining the dental morphology from prehistoric Ireland, I also looked at the dentitions from Rathlin.

Six of these individuals have dental remains. Interradicular extensions of enamel occur on three of the five individuals with mandibular molars; they are present in two females and one male. These dental features occur bilaterally in only one individual, on the lower second permanent molars. Interradicular extensions are enamel margins which show varying degrees of extension down towards the root. This variation, the interradicular extension of enamel, is one of the so-called ‘Mongoloid dental characteristics’ found in Europe during prehistoric and historic times, and right up to the present, though less frequently. They occur more frequently on mandibular teeth. This trait, along with other non-metric traits, including shovel-shaped incisors and Cusps of Carabelli, may be useful in identifying and defining population groups. These characteristics are governed by genetic factors, and the most important influence is hereditary. The presence of interradicular extensions of enamel on three of these individuals, from three graves could suggest a familial relationship. They occur on three of five individuals with mandibular molars. They are present in two females and one male. This trait occurs bilaterally in only the male, on the lower second permanent molars. It occurs on one lower second permanent molar, and on the first two right lower molars

One burial has shovel-shaped lateral incisors, another morhological trait seen most commonly in people from eastern Asia, in particular around Mongolia.

Two out of five individuals with upper first permanent molars do not have Cusps of Carabelli; severe occlusal wear prevented detection of these cusps on two of these individuals.

STRAID TOWNLAND, COUNTY LONDONDERRY Ulster Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 53, 1990.

Four Early Bronze age stone cists were excavated at Straid, Co. Londonderry, in 1985, in advance of quarrying. Details are reported of three inhumations, three cremations, three Irish Bowls and a Vase Urn. Radiocarbon samples of inhumed bone from three separate cists produced three determinations, each lying when calibrated between 2500 and 2000 B.C.

This accidental discovery of ancient human remains during quarrying near Claudy, County Londonderry, early in February 1985, was immediately reported via the police to the Historic Monuments and Buildings Branch, Department of the Environment (N.I.). An investigation of the site was quickly mounted, and over a three-day period two intact and two damaged stone cists were examined, yielding three inhumations, three cremations and four Bronze Age pottery vessels. Nevertheless, the best estimate of depth for cist I placed it as much as 2.50 m below modern ground level.

The human remains at Straid represent four males, two females and a child. Three of the males were found as crouched inhumations, each with an accompanying Food Vessel. The inhumation in Cist III was accompanied by two cremated females. This mixture of burial practise is well attested, but it is the norm for the inhumation to precede the cremation. The dental remains of three individuals are present. One of these individuals has a shovel-shaped lateral incisor.

APPENDIX 2

Some Observations on the Dental Remains from the Rathlin Burials

by Catryn Power

(Department of Archaeology, University College, Cork)

Dental remains from six individuals were examined: Skeleton 1 (Grave 1), Skeletons 4 and 6 (Grave 2), Skeleton 7 (Grave 3), Skeleton 9 (Grave 6) and Skeleton 10 (Grave 7). In addition, a fully developed upper left permanent third molar was present with the bones of Skeleton 7 (Grave 3). It belongs to an individual in the mid-twenties, and is separate from the other skeletal remains discussed in the bone report.

ENAMEL VARIATION

Enamel margins show varying degrees of extension down towards the root. The variation, the interradicular extension of enamel, is one of the so-called ‘Mongoloid dental characteristics’ found in Europe during prehistoric and historic times, and right up to the present, though less frequently (Brabant and Twiesselmann 1964). They occur more frequently on mandibular teeth. This trait, along with other non-metric traits, including shovel-shaped incisors and Cusps of Carabelli, may be useful in identifying and defining population groups. These characteristics are governed by genetic factors, and the most important influence is hereditary (Brothwell 1981). The presence of interradicular extensions of enamel on three of these individuals, Skeletons 1, 9 and 10 (Graves 1, 6 and 7) could suggest a familial relationship. They occur on three of five individuals with mandibular molars: they are present in two females (Skeletons 1 and 9) and one male (Skeleton 10). This trait occurs bilaterally in only the male, on the lower second permanent molars. It occurs on one lower second permanent molar in Skeleton 9 (Grave 6), and on the first two right lower molars in the Grave 1 female. The skeleton in Grave 1 has shovel-shaped incisors. Two out of the five individuals with upper-first permanent molars do not have Cusps of Carabelli (Skeletons 1 and 10). Severe occlusal wear prevented detection of these cusps on two of these individuals, Skeleton 4 (Grave 2) and Skeleton 9 (Grave 6).