Estimating the distribution of probable age-at-death from dental remains of immature human fossils

Laura L. Shackelford, Ashley E Stinespring Harris, Lyle W. Konigsberg

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


In two historic longitudinal growth studies, Moorrees et al. (Am J Phys Anthropol 21 (1963) 99-108; J Dent Res 42 (1963) 1490-1502) presented the "mean attainment age" for stages of tooth development for 10 permanent tooth types and three deciduous tooth types. These findings were presented graphically to assess the rate of tooth formation in living children and to age immature skeletal remains. Despite being widely cited, these graphical data are difficult to implement because there are no accompanying numerical values for the parameters underlying the growth data. This analysis generates numerical parameters from the data reported by Moorrees et al. by digitizing 358 points from these tooth formation graphs using DataThief III, version 1.5. Following the original methods, the digitized points for each age transition were conception-corrected and converted to the logarithmic scale to determine a median attainment age for each dental formation stage. These values are subsequently used to estimate age-at-death distributions for immature individuals using a single tooth or multiple teeth, including estimates for 41 immature early modern humans and 25 immature Neandertals. Within-tooth variance is calculated for each age estimate based on a single tooth, and a between-tooth component of variance is calculated for age estimates based on two or more teeth to account for the increase in precision that comes from using additional teeth. Finally, we calculate the relative probability of observing a particular dental formation sequence given known-age reference information and demonstrate its value in estimating age for immature fossil specimens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-253
Number of pages27
JournalAmerican journal of physical anthropology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2012


  • Neandertals
  • early modern humans
  • teeth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology


Dive into the research topics of 'Estimating the distribution of probable age-at-death from dental remains of immature human fossils'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this