Masticatory properties in pre-modern Holocene populations from Northern China. Academic Article uri icon


  • Recent studies indicate that evolution of the craniofacial skeleton is influenced by dietary behavior, which in turn alters masticatory efficacy and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) stability. In this study the mechanical properties of the masticatory system and the integrity of the TMJ in human populations from Northern China, dated to between 3800 BCE and 100 CE, were assessed. The results demonstrate that the mechanical efficiency is comparable to other modern human populations, though variations are present across different populations. While the ratio of overall weighted muscle efficiency for incisor loading vs. molar loading in pastoral and some recent agricultural groups is similar to early Homo sapiens, the ratio in more ancient agricultural groups is similar to the ratio in populations with heavy anterior paramasticatory activities, such as Neandertals, Inuits, and Native Americans. The TMJ vulnerability negatively correlates with the maxillary dental arch size, and positively with the condylar size. These findings suggest that there are multi-directional strategies in adaptation to heavy anterior teeth loading, such as increasing anterior teeth loading efficiency, increasing facial height, increasing facial breath and facial orthognathy, or decreasing anterior facial length. Furthermore, populations or individuals with a smaller dental arch and high biting efficiency could more easily injure the TMJ during unilateral loadings, which may explain the higher prevalence of TMJ disorders in modern humans, especially in women. These findings further reflect the impact of diachronic changes of the masticatory apparatus and lifestyle and their impact on oral health during recent human history.

published proceedings

  • Homo

author list (cited authors)

  • Wang, Q., Zhang, Q., Han, T., Sun, Z., Dechow, P. C., Zhu, H., & Zhang, Q.

citation count

  • 2

complete list of authors

  • Wang, Qian||Zhang, Qun||Han, Tao||Sun, Zhichao||Dechow, Paul C||Zhu, Hong||Zhang, Quanchao

publication date

  • August 2019