Sinodonty and Beyond: Reasserting the Relevance of Dental Anthropology for Understanding the Peopling of the New World

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The past ten years have seen a dramatic rise in research on the peopling of the New World by archaeologists, craniometricians, and geneticists but with less input from dental specialists. In this presentation we review the history of dental anthropology as it relates to peopling of the New World and offer an analysis of Paleoindian dentition that reasserts dental anthropology’s relevance and potential to lead future discussion in the debate.

Pioneered by Christy Turner, dental anthropology was one basis for the development of the three wave model of peopling of the New World that reflected separate migrations of populations from Asia. All groups were characterized by what Turner called Sinodonty, a suite of dental traits found in northeast Asian populations. Subsequent work on Paleoindian and Archaic Period dentition focused on the presence or absence of Sundadonty and America’s subgroup structure. Although the three migration model remains viable, genetic research documenting alternative, and more complex, migration scenarios dominate recent literature.

Here we provide an interindividual analysis of confirmed Paleoindian dentitions to evaluate competing models of geographically structured New World migration routes (coastal vs. ice-free corridor, bi-coastal migration routes) and different migration processes (South America bottlenecking). Multidimensional scaling of Gower similarity coefficients confirms that there is geographic patterning that may reflect a bi-coastal migration route or a combined bi-coastal migration (north and south coast of Beringia eventually into the Pacific and Atlantic coast of North America) with a later migration through the ice-free corridor (the central North Americans in this analysis).


Knoxville, TN

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