Dental enamel hypoplasia, age at death, and weaning in the Taung child

Rodrigo S. Lacruz, Fernando Ramirez Rozzi, Timothy G. Bromage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Since its discovery in 1924, the Taung child has been one of the most widely studied hominid fossils. However, a feature so far unrecorded in this juvenile specimen is the presence of dental enamel defects known as linear enamel hypoplasia (LEH) on its first permanent molars. These abnormal phases of enamel growth are associated with episodes of trauma, illness or malnutrition and differ in morphology from external normal growth lines, or perikymata. The LEH appears 11 perikymata (corresponding to approximately 11 weeks of growth) from the cervix on the M1 and 13 on the M1. Assuming that perikymata formed at intervals of about seven days during enamel development, and invoking M1 crown formation time obtained for other Australopithecus africanus specimens, we suggest that the Taung child experienced a period of stress at about 2.5 years of age, which led to the development of the LEH. As this age is broadly coincidental with weaning in modern humans, we further investigated whether there might be a relationship with the LEH of the Taung molars. On the evidence of crown development in M1 of another A. africanus (Stw 402) and root length in the Taung child's M1, we suggest that the age at death of the Taung child was between 3.73 and 3.93 years, just slightly later than previously proposed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)567-569
Number of pages3
JournalSouth African Journal of Science
Issue number11-12
StatePublished - 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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