The dietary behavior of two early medieval individuals with temporomandibular ankylosis.

Int J Paleopathol 2020 12 14;31:1-6. Epub 2020 Aug 14.

Department of Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Vienna, Althanstraße 14, 1090 Vienna, Austria; Department of Anthropology, Natural History Museum Vienna, Burgring 7, A 1010 Vienna, Austria. Electronic address:

Objectives: This study aimed to reconstruct the dietary behavior of two early medieval individuals who display gnathic malformation.

Material: Two skeletons affected by temporomandibular ankylosis were analyzed, one from the Great Moravian burial site of Rajhradice (9th century AD, Czech Republic), and the other from the Avar burial site of Schӧnkirchen (8th century AD, Austria).

Methods: Carbon and nitrogen isotopic values were measured from the bone collagen of both individuals. In the Rajhradice case, where the childhood origin of ankylosis is deduced, isotopic analysis of dentine sections was performed.

Results: Both individuals show isotopic values within the range of variation of a contemporaneous population sample. There was no observable dietary change in the Rajhradice individual that could be linked to the occurrence of ankylosis.

Conclusions: Both individuals consumed diets typical for their populations. They appear to not have restricted access to foodstuffs, namely animal protein, which would likely have had to be served in liquid (e.g. milk) or in a highly mashed form to compensate for insufficient mastication.

Significance: This finding provides specific evidence of care provided to these two afflicted members of past populations.

Limitations: Though the proportion of animal protein is an important indicator of the quality of diet, many other aspects of diet - such as micronutrient content - elude stable isotope analysis.

Suggestions For Further Research: Amino acid compound specific isotope analyses of collagen would provide deeper insight into both the diet and physiology of the affected individuals.

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