Date of this Version
Hammerl EE, Baier MA, Reinhard KJ (2015) Agave Chewing and Dental Wear: Evidence from Quids. PLoS ONE 10(7): e0133710. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0133710
Agave quid chewing is examined as a potential contributing behavior to hunter-gatherer dental wear. It has previously been hypothesized that the contribution of Agave quid chewing to dental wear would be observed in communities wherever phytolith-rich desert succulents were part of subsistence. Previous analysis of coprolites from a prehistoric agricultural site, La Cueva de los Muertos Chiquitos in Durango, Mexico, showed that Agave was a consistent part of a diverse diet. Therefore, quids recovered at this site ought to be useful materials to test the hypothesis that dental wear was related to desert succulent consumption. The quids recovered from the site were found to be largely derived from chewing Agave. In this study, the quids were found to be especially rich in phytoliths, and analysis of dental casts made from impressions left in the quids revealed flat wear and dental attrition similar to that of Agave-reliant hunter-gatherers. Based on evidence obtained from the analysis of quids, taken in combination with results from previous studies, it is determined that Agave quid chewing was a likely contributing factor to dental wear in this population. As such, our method provides an additional avenue of dental research in areas where quids are present.