Between the 18th and 22nd of March, we visited Vienna to learn more about tooth cementum annulation (TCA), that can be used to estimate age-at-death of individuals from archaeological collections. This is particularly useful when studying cremated human remains since they are highly fragmented and the age estimation using standard morphological method is not always possible.
Dr. Katharina Rebay Salisbury, the head of the ERC project "Motherhood in prehistory" (website and blog), welcomed us and introduced us to Barbara Rendl, who currently applies TCA on collections used in their project. Barbara showed us the thin section preparation procedure and we tried some of the steps ourselves. We did an initial assessment of the number of cementum lines on some of the thin sections they had already prepared. Since the Vienna team mostly worked with non-cremated teeth, we are very much looking forward to test TCA on cremated individuals from Belgian archaeological collections. This will enable the age estimation of a larger proportion of individuals than can currently be done with macroscopic techniques.
Besides the TCA training, we also had the opportunity to meet the team of the "Motherhood in Prehistory" project and exchanged information about our current research. We were also kindly invited to visit the Anthropology department of the Natural history museum, meet some team members and learn about their research.
Prof. dr. Fabian Kanz, the head of the state-of-the-art laboratory facilities of the Forensic Institute of the Medical University of Vienna, showed us the various labs and equipment present. We also visited the Karl Donath histological laboratory at the Dental Clinic, where the head of the lab Dr. Stefan Tangl informed us about their research and showed us some histological thin sections and high-resolution micro-CT scans of archaeological bone and teeth.
We are already looking forward to welcome two of the Vienna team members, who are coming to Brussels to work on strontium isotope ratios of cremated remains at the beginning of May.
Dr. Barbara Veselka