Emmy Bocaege

Enamel defects as indicators of childhood stress in the Neolithic Near East

My research interests relate to human skeletal and dental development and in particular to how the study of enamel and long bone growth can help us understand past life ways.

The study of tooth enamel is particularly useful for bioarchaeologists, as unlike bone, enamel does not remodel during life and teeth are well recovered from archaeological sites. Recent advances in dental anthropology have made it possible to establish detailed chronologies of dental development by examining microscopic growth lines inside teeth. The surface expressions of these microstructures are called perikymata and these provide an archive of an individual’s development, similar to the growth rings of trees. Anomalies in the spacing pattern of perikymata can be used to identify and time dental growth disturbances, which can be linked to episodes of childhood stress.

I have developed a method to objectively identify perikymata using a 3D measuring microscope (Alicona 3D InfiniteFocus, housed at the Natural History Museum). In my research project, I will employ this new technique to identify and time enamel defects (linear enamel hypoplasia). This information will be used alongside skeletal growth data and detailed archaeological evidence of settlement, lifestyle, diet, and living conditions at the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük located in the Konya plain, Turkey (7400-7100 BC to 6200-5900 BC) in order to give an insight into how children experienced living in this past society.


 Educational background

  • BSc, Anthropology, UCL, 2006
  • MSc, Skeletal and dental bioarchaelogy, UCL, 2008 (distinction)

Harrington L, Bocaege E, Humphrey L. 2010. Characterisation of developmental features in human enamel through surface roughness analysis. Poster presentation, International conference on surface metrology, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA.

Bocaege E, Humphrey LT, Hillson SW. 2010. Technical note: A new three-dimensional technique for high resolution quantitative recording of perikymata. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 141:498-503.

Humphrey LT, Bocaege E. 2008. Tooth ablation in the Maghreb: chronological and geographical patterns. African Archaeological Review 25:109-123.

  • Digital elevation model of the crown surface of a lower central incisor
  • Identification of perikymata by matching valleys in the profile diagram with grooves in the model image

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