Bioanthropological1 researches carried out in the last few decades have given special emphasis to the study of the relation between disease, as well as social and environmental phenomena, enhancing the already strong connection between lifestyle and health conditions during history of humankind (Cohen & Armelagos, 1984; Katzenberg & Saunders, 2008; Larsen, 1997). Because infectious diseases result from the interaction between host and agent, modulated by ecological and cultural environments, the comparative study of the historic prevalence of diseases in past populations worldwide can provide important data about their related factors and etiology.
The study of dental diseases (such as caries) has been given special attention from Paleopathology2. The tooth, for its physical features tends to resist destruction and taphonomic conditions better than any other body tissue and therefore, is a valuable element for the study on individual's diet, and social and cultural factors related to it, from a population perspective.
Caries is one of the infectious diseases more easily observable in human remains retrieved from archaeological excavations. For their long time of development and non-lethal nature the lesions presented at the time of the death remain recognizable indefinitely, allowing to infer, along with other archaeological and ecological data, the types of food that a specific population consumed, the cooking technology they used, the relative frequency of consumption, and the way the food was shared among the group (Hillson, 2001 2008; Larsen, 1997; Rodríguez, 2003).
1 Formerly called Physical Anthropology, Bioanthropology is a discipline that provides integrated information about the lifestyle of past populations and their associations with the environment through the study of human remains. The North American school denominates it Bioarchaeology (Buikstra & Beck, 2006; Larsen, 1997; Roberts & Manchester, 2005).
2 In general, diseases, signs and determining factors have been studied by Bioanthropology under the label of Paleopathology (the study of diseases in past societies through ancient texts, art and human remains). The specific study of the oral diseases during ancient times is named Oral or Dental paleopathology (Campillo, 2001; Waldron, 2009).
Considering the available data, we know that the highest caries rates3, their distribution and severity profiles observed nowadays are the result of a complex process of slow dietary changes, directly linked to the development of Western civilization. Consequently, the current caries patterns are not observed in past populations, on the opposite, they show a high variability along time and space that corresponds to a wide range of subsistence strategies, specific cultural regulations, and particular historical processes.
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