(Doug O'Harra/Alaska Dispatch, 16 August 2011) -- You are what you eat — and that maxim may include the shape and geometry of your jawbone. A lifetime of strenuous mastication on muktuk and tough wild meat harvested near the Chukchi Sea gave a group of pre-contact Inupiat Alaskans rounder and tougher jawbones, a finding that may offer physical anthropologists another method to sort out the dietary habits of other prehistoric peoples, says a research paper published this summer in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. It turns out that what people eat, and whether they they used their teeth to prep hides, gradually alters the structure of their mandibles in predictable ways, according to a study that used the X-ray guns and the principles of engineering stress to analyze 63 jawbones from Inupiat people who lived near the modern village of Point Hope 300 to 400 years ago. Scientists from the Johns Hopkins Center for Functional Anatomy and Evolution compared these Alaskan remains to the jawbones from 42 Arikara Indians who lived in what is now South Dakota about the same time. They found dramatic differences that could be traced back to known differences in diet and lifestyle of the two groups.
Posted 18 August 2011; 12:45:36 PM. Permalink