Leslie Quade

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Masaryk U.

Grant number

Gr. 10203

Approve Date

October 7, 2021

Project Title

Quade, Leslie (Masaryk U.) "Stressed to the Tooth: Stress and dental cortisol concentrations"

The relationship between ‘stress’, health, and life experience is a primary focus in anthropology, with a considerable body of research directed towards the examination of skeletons from past populations. However, studies addressing stress experience within different societies and over time have been limited by methodological constraints. Skeletal stress markers are most often indirect and non-specific measures of stress and it is not clear how ‘stressed’ an individual must be for the development of skeletal lesions. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the body in response to stressors. Recent studies have detected cortisol from modern and archaeological tooth structures, meriting further investigation. Using teeth sourced from a local dental hospital in the Czech Republic, this research explores if dental cortisol concentrations can be used as a valid stress indicator, specifically addressing the question: does variation in dental cortisol concentrations reflect stress experience or exposure? Dental cortisol concentrations are hypothesized to provide a direct and quantifiable measure of chronic stress, possibly circumventing some of the challenges in analyzing indirect stress indicators. Given the high survival of teeth in archaeological contexts, dental cortisol concentrations have the potential to provide an important new avenue for assessing stress in the past and over deep time.