Interglobular dentine attributed to vitamin D deficiency visible in cremated human teeth

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Vitamin D deficiency has hugely impacted the health of past societies. Its identification in skeletal remains provides insights into the daily activities, cultural habits, and the disease load of past populations. However, up till now, this approach remained impossible in cremated bones, because temperatures reached during cremations destroyed all macroscopic evidence of vitamin D deficiency. This precluded the analyses of a large fraction of the archaeological record, as cremation was an important burial ritual from the Late Neolithic until the Early Medieval period in Europe. Here, the identification of interglobular dentine (IGD), a dental mineralisation defect attributed to vitamin D deficiency, in experimentally burnt teeth, demonstrates this deficiency to be observable in human teeth burned to temperatures as high as 900 °C. In most cases, it becomes even possible to assess the ages-of-occurrence as well as the severity of the IGD and possibly vitamin D deficiency intensity. This study represents a major step forward in the fields of biological anthropology, archaeology, and palaeopathology by opening up a variety of new possibilities for the study of health and activities related to sunlight exposure of numerous past populations that practiced cremation as their funerary ritual.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20958
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalScientific Reports - Nature
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


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