Dietary inferences from dental occlusal microwear at mission San Luis de Apalachee

Jason M. Organ, Mark F. Teaford, Clark Spencer Larsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


San Luis de Apalachee, one of a chain of Roman Catholic missions established in Spanish Florida (modern states of Georgia and Florida) in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, was the principal center of missionization of native populations in the Florida pan-handle. Paleoethnobotanical remains yield evidence of production of various kinds of crops at the site, typical of nearly all mission period sites in the area. Stable isotope (carbon and nitrogen) analysis and dental caries evidence suggest that maize was not as important in the diet at San Luis as in other contemporary settings in the region. Ethnohistorical research indicates a heavier reliance on meat consumption compared to other mission settings. This study examines dental microwear of occlusal surfaces of maxillary molars from San Luis and five other Native American mission period sites in Spanish Florida. Epoxy casts of molar crushing facets were photographed under 500X magnification, using a scanning electron microscope. Photomicrographs were digitized using Microware 4.02 (Ungar [.2002a]) and statistically evaluated using one-way ANOVA and post hoc Tukey's multiple comparisons tests. These analyses reveal that the frequency of pitting on the San Luis molars is significantly greater than for other mission period sites. Consistent with bioarchaeological, historical, and archaeological documentation, these findings suggest that diets were different in the San Luis natives in comparison with the other native populations in Spanish Florida. Various dietary factors likely came into play, resulting in these differences, and may have included significantly greater meat consumption at San Luis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)801-811
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican journal of physical anthropology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Dental microwear
  • Diet
  • Spanish Florida
  • Tooth use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology


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