An investigation of ancient Maya intentional dental modification practices at Midnight Terror Cave using anthroposcopic and paleogenomic methods

Publication date: March 2020

Source: Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 115

Author(s): Cristina Verdugo, Kimberly Zhu, Kalina Kassadjikova, Lara Berg, Jannine Forst, Alison Galloway, James E. Brady, Lars Fehren-Schmitz


Evidence of intentional dental modification practices has been found throughout Mesoamerica dating from the Early Preclassic period to the conquest. The recovery of 102 modified teeth from Midnight Terror Cave (MTC) provides a sufficiently large sample to critically examine current explanations of intentional dental modification. Paleogenomic analysis was employed in order to test hypotheses which link intentional dental modification to sex and kinship. DNA was extracted and genomic sequencing libraries were made for 27 teeth. Results show the presence of both sexes, indicating that the practice is not sex linked. The mitochondrial genome data detects a possible link between intentional dental modification and style.