Patterns in ritual tooth avulsion at Roonka

Arthur C. Durband, Judith Littleton, Keryn Walshe

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17 Scopus citations


Tooth avulsion is the intentional removal of one or more teeth for ritual or aesthetic reasons, or to denote group affiliation. Typically the maxillary incisors are the teeth most often selected for removal. Previous authors have discussed the presence of tooth avulsions in several individuals recovered from Roonka, but those papers did not examine any patterns in those removals that might be present. Analysis of the tooth avulsions at Roonka reveals a change in the practice over time, with the older burials from phase II typically showing removal of both maxillary central incisors with a left side bias when only one tooth is removed, and the more recent phase III burials showing only one incisor avulsed and a right side bias for removal. Frequencies in the practice also changed over time, with avulsions being much more common in the older phase II burials. Historical evidence suggests that any particular regional or social group would have its own particular pattern of tooth avulsion, so these changes in tooth avulsions at Roonka suggest that the site was either used by multiple groups of people for burials, or that there was significant cultural change during the occupation of the site.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)479-485
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2014


  • Australia
  • Holocene
  • Murray River
  • dental modification


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