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Preparing the lower M1s for microwear analyses

Updated: Sep 22, 2022

Foto 1. Cleaning the occlusal surface with a cotton swab, acetone and alcohol to remove any consolidant or varnish from the occlusal surface

Foto 2. Mandibles ready for being molded

Foto 3. Marius molding the cave bear’s lower M1

Foto 4. The casts freshly removed from the cave bear mandibles. By the way, here not even half of our analyzed samples! 😉

Foto 5. Andra processing the samples before being sent to Dr. Rivals, at IPHES, Spain.

Microwear analyses provide valuable information about the cave bear’s palaeodiet. The way the surface of the teeth looks (the occlusal plane), at microscopic level, is indicative for understanding the typology of the food items ingested during the last months of animal’s life.

Together with our volunteer, Andra, we molded the occlusal surface of 100 cave bears first lower molars from our analyzed cave sites, all age categories: juveniles, subadults and adults. This might be the highest cave bear population ever to be analyzed by means of microwear analysis.

The sampling technique consisted of cleaning the sample, removing the sediments by using acetone and then 96% alcohol. The cast of the teeth was be done by using Dental silicone (Heraeus PROVIL novo cartridges (Vinylpolysiloxane or VPS) and PROVIL novo Putty. The silicone cartridges were coupled to an application gun. After the silicone cast was dried, we used PROVIL novo Putty for creating a larger form for creating the positive replicas within the next steps.

Our collaborator, Dr. Florent Rivals, appointed Research Professor at Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES) from Spain, will perform the next steps - making the positive replicas and analyzing the typology of the dental microfeatures.

We are looking forward for getting interesting and unpuzzling results for the cave bear palaeoecology!

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