Dental health in Northern Chile's Atacama oases: evaluating the Middle Horizon (AD 500-1000) impact on local diet.


As one of the few areas apt for horticulture in Northern Chile's arid landscape, the prehistory of the Atacama oases is deeply enmeshed with that of the inter-regional networks that promoted societal development in the south central Andes. During the Middle Horizon (AD 500-1000), local populations experienced a cultural apex associated with a substantial increase in inter-regional interaction, population density, and quantity and quality of mortuary assemblages. Here, we test if this cultural peak affected dietary practices equally among the distinct local groups of this period. We examine caries prevalence and the degree of occlusal wear in four series recovered from three cemeteries. Our results show a reduction in the prevalence of caries for males among an elite subsample from Solcor 3 and the later Coyo 3 cemeteries. Dental wear tends to increase over time with the Late Middle Horizon/Late Intermediate Period cemetery of Quitor 6 showing a higher average degree of wear. When considered in concert with archaeological information, we concluded that the Middle Horizon was marked by dietary variability wherein some populations were able to obtain better access to protein sources (e.g., camelid meat). Not all members of Atacameño society benefited from this, as we note that this dietary change only affected men. Our results suggest that the benefits brought to the San Pedro oases during the Middle Horizon were not equally distributed among local groups and that social status, relationship to the Tiwanaku polity, and interment in particular cemeteries affected dietary composition.

DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.22042

Cite this paper

@article{Hubbe2012DentalHI, title={Dental health in Northern Chile's Atacama oases: evaluating the Middle Horizon (AD 500-1000) impact on local diet.}, author={Mark Hubbe and Christina Torres-Rouff and Walter Alves Neves and Laura M. King and Pedro Da-gloria and Maria Antonietta Costa}, journal={American journal of physical anthropology}, year={2012}, volume={148 1}, pages={62-72} }