The teeth of ruminants (cud-chewing herbivores) can be used to estimate age. Tooth wear age estimation is an especially valuable method in archaeological research because it is non-destructive, efficient, and is adaptable to multiple species, which provides effective results. The objective of this paper is to review tooth wear age estimation approaches taken with a focus on cervid (deer) and caprine (sheep and goat) mandibles. I discuss the process of dental attrition involving ruminant chewing, digestion, and feeding behaviour, as well as factors that affect the rate of wear including individual and population variance. The approaches to tooth wear age estimation have been divided into three overarching categories: the Crown Height Method, the Visual Wear Pattern Method, and the Wear Trait Scoring Method. These approaches are all non-destructive and require similar assumptions about the regularities of tooth wear. Each involves different levels of accuracy, ease of use, efficiency, and applicability to archaeological mandibles. This paper highlights the strengths and weaknesses for these approaches and explains that these various methods reviewed are each better suited to different research situations. Taken together, tooth wear age estimation is a valuable tool that zooarchaeologists employ to reconstruct age-based demographic profiles of animal remains recovered from archaeological sites, illustrating how people interacted with and used them.
Aitken, R. J. 1975. “Cementum Layers and Tooth Wear as Criteria for Ageing Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus).” Journal of Zoology 175 (1): 15–28.
Banfield, A. W. F. 1954. Preliminary Investigation of the Barren Ground Caribou Part II. Life History, Ecology, and Utilization. Wildlife Management Bulletin 1. Ottawa: Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources, National Parks Branch.
Berg, Mathilde van den, Maarten J. J. E. Loonen, and Canan Çakırlar. 2021. “Judging a Reindeer by Its Teeth: A User-Friendly Tooth Wear and Eruption Pattern Recording Scheme to Estimate Age-at-Death in Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus).” International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 31 (3): 417–28. https://doi.org/10.1002/oa.2961.
Bergerud, Arthur T. 1970. “Eruption of Permanent Premolars and Molars for Newfoundland Caribou.” The Journal of Wildlife Management 34 (4): 962. https://doi.org/10.2307/3799172.
Bowen, F., R. F. Carden, J. Daujat, S. Grouard, H. Miller, S. Perdikaris, and N. Sykes. 2016. “Dama Dentition: A New Tooth Eruption and Wear Method for Assessing the Age of Fallow Deer (Dama dama): Tooth Eruption and Wear Method for Assessing Fallow Deer Age.” International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 26 (6): 1089–98. https://doi.org/10.1002/oa.2523.
Brown, W. A. B., and Norma G. Chapman. 1990. “The Dentition of Fallow Deer (Dama dama): A Scoring Scheme to Assess Age from Wear of the Permanent Molariform Teeth.” Journal of Zoology 221 (4): 659–82. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7998.1990.tb04023.x.
Brown, W. A. B., and Norma G. Chapman. 1991. “The Dentition of Red Deer (Cervus elaphus): A Scoring Scheme to Assess Age from Wear of the Permanent Molariform Teeth.” Journal of Zoology 224 (4): 519–36. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7998.1991.tb03783.x.
Brunson, K., N. He, and X. Dai. 2016. “Sheep, Cattle, and Specialization: New Zooar- chaeological Perspectives on the Taosi Longshan: New Zooarchaeological Perspectives on the Taosi Longshan.” International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 26 (3): 460–75. https://doi.org/10.1002/oa.2436.
Bull, Gail, and Sebastian Payne. 1982. “Tooth Eruption and Epiphysial Fusion in Pigs and Wild Boar.” In Ageing and Sexing Animal Bones from Archaeological Sites, edited by Bob Wilson, Caroline Grigson, and Sebastian Payne, 55–72. BAR British Series 109. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports.
Crabtree, Pam J. 1996. “Production and Consumption in an Early Complex Society: Animal Use in Middle Saxon East Anglia.” World Archaeology 28 (1): 58–75. https://doi.org/10.1080/00438243.1996.9 980331.
Dudley Furniss-Roe, Tina. 2008. Incremental Structures and Wear Patterns of Teeth for Age Assessment of Red Deer. BAR International Series 1835. Oxford: Archaeopress.
DeMiguel, Daniel, Beatriz Azanza, José Cego- ñino, Inmaculada Ruiz, and Jorge Morales. 2016. “The Interplay between Increased Tooth Crown-Height and Chewing Effi- ciency, and Implications for Cervidae Evolution.” Lethaia 49 (1): 117–29. https://doi.org/10.1111/let.12139.
Gifford-Gonzalez, Diane. 2018. An Introduction to Zooarchaeology. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing AG. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-65682-3.
Gifford-Gonzalez, Diane. 2018. An Introduction to Zooarchaeology. Cham, Switzerland: Springer Inter- national Publishing AG. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-65682- 3.
Grant, Annie. 1982. “The Use of Tooth Wear as a Guide to the Age of Domestic Ungulates.” In Ageing and Sexing Animal Bones from Archaeological Sites, edited by Bob Wilson, Caroline Grigson, and Sebastian Payne, 91–108. BAR British Series 109. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports.
Greenfield, Haskel J., and Elizabeth R. Arnold. 2008. “Absolute Age and Tooth Eruption and Wear Sequences in Sheep and Goat: Determining Age-at-Death in Zooarchaeology Using a Modern Control Sample.” Journal of Archaeological Science 35 (4): 836–49. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2007.06.003.
Greenfield, Haskel J., and Elizabeth R. Arnold. 2015. “‘Go(a)t Milk?’ New Perspectives on the Zooarchaeological Evidence for the Earliest Intensification of Dairying in South Eastern Europe.” World Archae- ology 47 (5): 792–818. https://doi.org/10.1080/00438243.2015.1 029076.
Greenfield, Haskel J., John Chapman, A. T. Clason, Allan S. Gilbert, Brian Hesse, and Sarunas Milisauskas. 1988. “The Origins of Milk and Wool Production in the Old World: A Zooarchaeological Perspective from the Central Balkans.” Current Anthropology 29 (4): 573–93.
Groot, Maaike. 2016. “Livestock for Sale: Animal Husbandry in a Roman Frontier Zone: The Case Study of the Civitas Batavorum.” Amsterdam Archaeological Studies 24. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
Halstead, P. 1985. “A Study of Mandibular Teeth from Romano-British Contexts at Maxey.” In Archaeology and Environment in the Lower Welland Valley, 1:217–23. East Anglian Archaeology Report, No. 27. Cambridgeshire Archaeological Committee.
Hambleton, Ellen. 1998. “A Comparative Study of Faunal Assemblages from British Iron Age Sites.” PhD Thesis, University of Durham.
Hillson, Simon. 1992. Mammal Bones and Teeth: An Introductory Guide to Methods of Identification. London and New York: Routledge.
Hillson, Simon. 2005. Teeth. Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press.
Høye, Toke T. 2006. “Age Determination in Roe Deer — a New Approach to Tooth Wear Evaluated on Known Age Individuals.” Acta Theriologica 51 (2): 205–14. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03192672.
Janzen, Anneke, Marie Balasse, and Stanley H. Ambrose. 2020. “Early Pastoral Mobility and Seasonality in Kenya Assessed through Stable Isotope Analysis.” Journal of Archaeological Science 117: 105099. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2020.105099.
Klein, Richard G., and Kathryn Cruz-Uribe. 1983. “The Computation of Ungulate Age (Mortality) Profiles from Dental Crown Heights.” Paleobiology 9 (1): 70–78.
Landon, David B. 1996. “Feeding Colonial Boston: A Zooarchaeological Study.” Historical Archaeology 30 (1): i–153.
Loe, Leif Egil, Atle Mysterud, Rolf Langvatn, and Nils Chr. Stenseth. 2003. “Decelerating and Sex-Dependent Tooth Wear in Norwegian Red Deer.” Oecologia 135 (3): 346–53. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-003-1192-9.
Lowe, V. P. W. 1967. “Teeth as Indicators of Age with Special Reference to Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) of Known Age from Rhum.” Journal of Zoology 152 (2): 137–53. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7998.1967.tb01881.x.
Lubinski, Patrick M. 2001. “Estimating Age and Season of Death of Pronghorn Antelope (Antilocapra americana ord) by Means of Tooth Eruption and Wear.” International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 11 (3): 218–30. https://doi.org/10.1002/oa.536.
Lyman, R. Lee. 2017. “Wear Stages and Crown Heights in Prehistoric Bighorn Sheep (Ovis Canadensis) Lower Molars in Eastern Washington State, U.S.A.” Jour- nal of Archaeological Science: Reports 15: 40–47. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2017.07.0 03.
McEwan, Eoin H. 1963. “Seasonal Annuli in the Cementum of the Teeth of Barren Ground Caribou.” Canadian Journal of Zoology 41 (1): 111–13. https://doi.org/10.1139/z63-012.
Miller, Frank L. 1972. “Eruption and Attrition of Mandibular Teeth in Barren-Ground Caribou.” The Journal of Wildlife Management 36 (2): 606. https://doi.org/10.2307/3799093.
Miller, Frank L. 1974. Biology of the Kaminuriak Population of Barren-Ground Caribou. Part 2, Dentition as an Indicator of Age and Sex. Canadian Wildlife Service Report Series 31. Ottawa: Spalding Printing Co. Ltd.
Miller, Frank L., and Gaston D. Tessier. 1971. “Dental Anomalies in Caribou, Rangifer tarandus.” Journal of Mammalogy 52 (1): 164–74. https://doi.org/10.2307/1378439.
Morrison, David, and Peter Whitridge. 1997. “Estimating the Age and Sex of Caribou from Mandibular Measurements.” Journal of Archaeological Science 24 (12): 1093–1106. https://doi.org/10.1006/jasc.1996.0189.
Munson, Patrick J. 2000. “Age-Correlated Differential Destruction of Bones and Its Effect on Archaeological Mortality Profiles of Domestic Sheep and Goats.” Journal of Archaeological Science 27 (5): 391–407. https://doi.org/10.1006/jasc.1999.0463.
Mutze, Ursula R., Ulrich Mutze, Gillian G. Jones, and Joris Peters. 2021. “Wear of Teeth in Sheep (WoTiS) - A Tool for Determining the Rate of Mandibular Tooth Wear in Sheep.” Journal of Archaeological Science 136 (March): 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2020.105300.
Nomokonova, Tatiana, Robert J. Losey, Pavel A. Kosintsev, and Andrei V. Plekhanov. 2021. “Reindeer Demographics at Iarte VI, Iamal Peninsula, Arctic Siberia.” Environmental Archaeology, 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1080/14614103.2021.1995260.
Pasda, Kerstin. 2009. Osteometry, and Osteological Age and Sex Determination of the Sisimiut Reindeer Population (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus). BAR International Series 1947. Oxford: John and Erica Hedges Ltd.
Payne, Sebastian. 1973. “Kill-off Patterns in Sheep and Goats: The Mandibles from Aşvan Kale.” Anatolian Studies 23: 281–303. https://doi.org/10.2307/3642547.
Payne, Sebastian. 1987. “Reference Codes for Wear States in the Mandibular Cheek Teeth of Sheep and Goats.” Journal of Archaeological Science 14 (6): 609–14. https://doi.org/10.1016/0305-4403(87)90079-3.
Pérez-Barbería, F. J., J. Carranza, and C. Sánchez-Prieto. 2015. “Wear Fast, Die Young: More Worn Teeth and Shorter Lives in Iberian Compared to Scottish Red Deer.” Edited by Alistair Robert Evans. PLOS ONE 10 (8): e0134788. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0134788.
Pérez-Barbería, F. J., E. I. Duff, M. J. Brewer, and F. E. Guinness. 2014. “Evaluation of Methods to Age Scottish Red Deer: The Balance between Accuracy and Practicality: Assessing the Age of Scottish Red Deer.” Journal of Zoology 294 (3): 180–89. https://doi.org/10.1111/jzo.12166.
Pike-Tay, Anne, C Andrew Morcomb, and Magen O’Farrell. 2001. “Reconsidering the Quadratic Crown Height Method of Age Estimation for Rangifer from Archaeological Sites.” Archaeozoologia 11 (1/2): 145–74.
Pilaar Birch, Suzanne E., Amelie Scheu, Michael Buckley, and Canan Çakırlar. 2019. “Combined Osteomorphological, Isotopic, ADNA, and ZooMS Analyses of Sheep and Goat Remains from Neolithic Ulucak, Turkey.” Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 11 (5): 1669–81. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12520-018-0624- 8.
Rabinovich, Rivka, and Erella Hovers. 2004. “Faunal Analysis from Amud Cave: Preliminary Results and Interpretations.” International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 14 (34): 287–306. https://doi.org/10.1002/oa.762.
Reimers, Eigil, Sindre Eftestøl, and Jonathan E. Colman. 2021. “Vigilance in Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus); Evolutionary History, Predation and Human Interference.” Polar Biology 44 (5): 997–1007. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-021- 02857-w.
Reitz, Elizabeth J, and Elizabeth S Wing. 2008. Zooarchaeology. Second Edition. Cambridge Manuals in Archaeology. https://doi.org/10.1017/ cbo9780511841354.
Russell, Nerissa. 2012. Social Zooarchaeology: Humans and Animals in Prehistory. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press.
Salvagno, Lenny, Tamsyn Fraser, Idoia Grau-Sologestoa, and Umberto Albarella. 2021. “A Method to Assess Wear Rate in Pig Teeth from Archaeological Sites.” Journal of Archaeological Science 127 (March): 105331. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2021.105331.
Skogland, Terje. 1984. “Wild Reindeer Foraging-Niche Organization.” Holarctic Ecology 7 (4): 345–79.
Skogland, Terje. 1988. “Tooth Wear by Food Limitation and Its Life History Consequences in Wild Reindeer.” Oikos 51 (2): 238. https://doi.org/10.2307/3565648.
Spiess, Arthur E. 1979. Reindeer and Caribou Hunters: An Archaeological Study. Studies in Archaeology. New York: Academic Press.
Steele, Teresa E., and Timothy D. Weaver. 2012. “Refining the Quadratic Crown Height Method of Age Estimation: Do Elk Teeth Wear Quadratically with Age?” Journal of Archaeological Science 39 (7): 2329–34. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2012.02.017.
Sten, Sabine. 2004. “Bovine Teeth in Age Assessment, from Medieval Cattle to Belgian Blue: Methodology, Possibilities and Limitations”. MA thesis, Stockholm University.
Stiner, Mary C. 1990. “The Use of Mortality Patterns in Archaeological Studies of Hominid Predatory Adaptations.” Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 9 (4): 305–51. https://doi.org/10.1016/0278- 4165(90)90010-B.
Taylor, L. A., D. W. H. Müller, C. Schwitzer, T. M. Kaiser, J. C. Castell, M. Clauss, and E. Schulz-Kornas. 2016. “Comparative Analyses of Tooth Wear in Free-Ranging and Captive Wild Equids: Tooth Wear in Free-Ranging and Captive Wild Equids.” Equine V eterinary Journal 48 (2): 240–45. https://doi.org/10.1111/evj.12408.
Tomé, Carine, and J.-D. Vigne. 2003. “Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus) Age at Death Estimates: New Methods and Modern Reference Data for Tooth Eruption and Wear, and for Epiphyseal Fusion.” Archaeofauna 12: 157–73.
Turner, Jack C. 1977. “Cemental Annulations as an Age Criterion in North American Sheep.” The Journal of Wildlife Management 41 (2): 211. https://doi.org/10.2307/3800597.
Twiss, K. C. 2008. “An Assessment of the Archaeological Applicability of Faunal Ageing Methods Based on Dental Wear.” International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 18 (4): 329–51. https://doi.org/10.1002/oa.940.
Winkler, Daniela E., and Thomas M. Kaiser. 2015. “Structural Morphology of Molars in Large Mammalian Herbivores: Enamel Content Varies between Tooth Positions.” Edited by Alistair Robert Evans. PLOS ONE 10 (8): e0135716. https://doi.org/10.1371/jour- nal.pone.0135716.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Copyright (c) 2022 Grace Kohut