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ZOOARCH  August 2007

ZOOARCH August 2007

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Subject:

Re: Cattle teeth

From:

Deb Bennett <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Deb Bennett <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 23 Aug 2007 12:14:11 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (95 lines)

Dear Russell, et al.: I'm interested in your question about wear between cow
incisors too. If I remember right, the subject has been discussed here at
the Zooarch board not too long ago, with no firm resolution. It seems the
main purport of your query is not whether the wear is "really there" but
whether it was produced as a side effect of the way a cow grazes, or by
human agency.

For many years I have been involved teaching people how to perform dentistry
on horses. However, sometimes these same techniques are also used on cattle.
The method I am speaking of goes far beyond mere "floating" of the teeth; it
is rather whole-mouth equilibration. Thus some techniques that we teach for
horses are not appropriate for cattle, because they lack upper incisors and
have different masticatory biomechanics.

In developed countries today, the species for which these techniques have
been developed and which is most likely to receive dental prophylaxis is the
horse. We then take what we do for horses and adapt it to cattle. But this
may not have been the case in the ancient world, where cattle usually came
into the culture before horses and were, at least in many cases, the primary
basis for the economy. There, if animal dentistry -- involving the physical
modification of teeth -- was practiced, it might well have been practiced
primarily on cattle.

I have no firm answers on this, but am writing to throw the subject out to
those with more experience looking at interproximal wear than I have. I
would also like to call on anyone, working in any culture or time period,
who suspects they may have instruments, such as small rasps, rongeurs, or
pliers-like tools that look "wrong" for either farriery or human medicine
(i.e., wrong size, bent at wrong angles, etc.). I am very interested in
finding out the historical origin of equine and/or animal dentistry. Of
course there are a few engravings or manuscript illustrations showing this
from Renaissance Europe and later, but my suspicion is that the Europeans
learned this, as they learned so much else, through their contact with the
Far East.

And please say 'hello' to Bill Honeychurch. He will perhaps not remember me;
I was an undergraduate at A-squared in 1970, when he was one of Milford
Wolpoff's lab instructors. Honeychurch was, I believe, in the auditorium the
day Wolpoff came in to lecture, in his usual expansive and bombastic manner,
with his barn door wide open....an experience nobody could ever  forget. It
took fully 10 minutes for the audience to get the message across to him.
Cheers --

Deb Bennett, Ph.D., Director
Equine Studies Institute
Livingston, California and
"Curator of the bone heap" at Vindolanda, in Northumbria, England


-----Original Message-----
From: Analysis of animal remains from archaeological sites
[mailto:[log in to unmask]]On Behalf Of Richard W Redding
Sent: Thursday, August 23, 2007 10:50 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [ZOOARCH] Cattle teeth


Dear All,

I recently received this e-mail from a colleague who works in physical
anthro.  I will post the photos under Russel Nelson on the bone
commons.  Please respond to [log in to unmask]


Hi Richard-
    I am working with Bill Honeychurch and Josh Wright over in
Mongolia. This year we excavated a Xiongnu context where the individual
had been interred with a number of animals- 7 or 8 horses, 3-4 cows and
about a dozen or more sheep/goats. Since I needed to get all this
livestock off my exam table in the lab tent, I jumped in to help clean
through the recovered stuff. I came across these cow teeth (see
attached) and was struck by the interproximal grooving that mimics what
we see occasionally in humans, generally thought to be the result of
either a palliative measure such as rodding in between teeth with a
toothpick like device (maybe, but I don't buy it on this level) or by
regularly pulling some sort of stringy material through the mouth, such
as in stripping rawhide or grasses (silaceous stuff) in the basket
manufacture process. Since cows eat grass, I reasoned this must be what
does it here, but it still seemed extensive, as well as pervaSIVE (33%
OF A SAMPLE OF 29 TEETH FROM 3-4 COWS)oops- caps lock. Anyway, so I
went out and looked at some Zud piles for a modern comparison (Bill
thinks I'm nuts). The Zud was that winter a few years ago that killed
off about half or more of Mongolia's stock herds, so there are piles of
bones lying around just begging to be looked at and asked research
questions before they all exfoliate and degrade. In a sample of 118 or
so teeth from 3 different zud piles representing maybe 80 animals I
only got like 5% with that kind of grooving, but I did get some, so I
figure faunal guys like you know about this. The question is, is this
something that's so common archaeologically that nobody bothers to look
at it, is it worth following up- I mean, that kind of difference may be
reflecting less in the way of foddering for the archaeological cows, it
could mean they kept them alive longer, so there may a use
differential, I don't know, but it seemed like something I should ask
you about. Any thoughts? Thanks in advance-
                                                     Russell NElson

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