Portrait of Dr Chris Deter

Dr Chris Deter

Lecturer in Biological Anthropology
Director of KORA (Kent Osteology Research Analysis)
Senior Tutor

About

Dr Chris Deter received her PhD in Biological Anthropology from UCL in 2005. She also holds an MSc in Osteology, Palaeopathology and Funerary Archaeology from the University of Sheffield (1999) and a BSc in Archaeology from Kansas State University (1996). She has participated in several archaeological fieldwork projects in the United States, Namibia, Israel, Nicaragua, Belize and Greece. She is currently  programme convenor for the MSc in Forensic Osteology and Field Recovery Methods at the University of Kent.

Research interests

Dr Chris Deter’s research focuses on dietary reconstruction of ancient human populations. Currently, she is working on reconstructing diet during the Anglo-Saxon and medieval periods in Kent, using chemical signatures retained in bones, known as stable isotopes. She uses stable isotopes combined with dental wear and pathology to investigate population social hierarchy, sexual differences within the community and weaning dietary changes in medieval children.

Chris is also interested in funerary practices in ancient populations. She explores differences between social structure, biological sex, age at death, burial placement and location within the cemetery.

Some of her previous research investigated the change in diets of North American and Near Eastern hunter-gatherers and agriculturalists, looking at how different environments affected the rate at which teeth wear.  She also looked at how tooth wear can give insight on the eruption sequence and timing of dentition.

Teaching

Undergraduate

  • SE609: Forensic Anthropology (module convenor)
  • SE570: Current Issues in Evolutionary Anthropology
  • SE566: Human Osteology (module convenor)
  • SE533: Project in Anthropological Science
  • SE302: Foundations of Biological Anthropology
  • SE308: Skills for Anthropology and Conservation

Postgraduate

Dr Deter is the programme convenor of the MSc Forensic Osteology and Field Recovery Methods.

  • SE814: Advanced Human Osteology and Anatomy (module convenor)
  • SE813: Dissertation Project (module convenor)
  • SE816: Forensic Methods of Identification
  • SE817: Growth and Disease of the Human Skeleton
  • SE818: Field Excavation and Recovery Methods
  • SE992: Advanced Topics in Evolutionary Anthropology

Dr Deter also supervises MSc Dissertation students.

Supervision

Dr Deter is interested in supervising PhD students in the fields of human osteology and dietary reconstruction.

Current students

  • Christopher Aris: Enamel growth variation in modern history and its impact on ageing juvenile skeletal remains
  • Jessica Dolding-Smith: Researching human life history and the link to an underlying biological rhythm (secondary supervisor)
  • Rosie Pitfield: Microscopic markers of biorhythms in human juvenile hard tissue (secondary supervisor)
  • Jessica Small: The forensic anthropology of burnt human juvenile teeth: a histological and scanning electron microscope approach (primary supervisor)
  • Thomasina White: Analysis of St. Gregory medical population in Canterbury

Professional

Dr Chris Deter is the manager of Kent Osteological Research and Analysis unit (KORA), which is based in the School of Anthropology and Conservation.  This unit offers commercial osteological services to a range of public sectors, and works closely with the regional archaeological units, especially Canterbury Archaeological Trust, The Trust for Thanet Archaeology and SWALE.

Publications

Article

  • Mahoney, P. et al. (2018). The Biorhythm of Human Skeletal Growth. Journal of Anatomy [Online] 232:26-38. Available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/joa.12709/full.
    Evidence of a periodic biorhythm is retained in tooth enamel in the form of Retzius lines. The periodicity of Retzius lines (RP) correlates with body mass and the scheduling of life history events when compared between some mammalian species. The correlation has led to the development of the inter-specific Havers-Halberg Oscillation (HHO) hypothesis, which holds great potential for studying aspects of a fossil species biology from teeth. Yet, our understanding of if, or how the HHO relates to human skeletal growth is limited. The goal here is to explore associations between the biorhythm and two hard tissues that form at different times during human ontogeny, within the context of the HHO. First, we investigate the relationship of RP to permanent molar enamel thickness and the underlying daily rate that ameloblasts secrete enamel during childhood. Following this, we develop preliminary research conducted on small samples of adult human bone by testing associations between RP, adult femoral length (as a proxy for attained adult stature), and cortical osteocyte lacunae density (as a proxy for the rate of osteocyte proliferation). Results reveal RP is positively correlated with enamel thickness, negatively correlated with femoral length, but weakly associated with the rate of enamel secretion and osteocyte proliferation. These new data imply that a slower biorhythm predicts thicker enamel for children but shorter stature for adults. Our results develop the intra-specific HHO hypothesis suggesting that there is a common underlying systemic biorhythm that has a role in the final products of human enamel and bone growth.
  • Fahy, G. et al. (2017). Bone deep: variation in stable isotope ratios and histomorphometric measurements of bone remodelling within adult humans. Journal of Archaeological Science [Online] 87:10-16. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2017.09.009.
    Stable carbon (?13C) and nitrogen (?15N) isotope studies of ancient human diet increasingly sample several skeletal elements within an individual. Such studies draw upon differences in bone turnover rates to reconstruct diet during different periods of time within an individual’s lifetime. Rib and femoral bone, with their respectively fast and slow remodeling rates, are the bones most often sampled to reconstruct shorter and longer term signals of diet prior to death. It is poorly understood if ?13C and ?15N vary between bone types within a single individual, or if this variation corresponds with bone turnover rate (BTR). Here, we determined ?13C and ?15N for ten different bones from ten adult human skeletons (n=5 males; n=5 females). Isotope values were compared to the rate that each bone remodeled, calculated from osteon population (OPD) density. Results reveal that isotope ratios varied within each skeleton (?13C: max= -1.58‰; ?1542 N: max= 3.05‰). Humeri, metacarpals, and ribs had the highest rate of bone remodelling; the occipital bone had the lowest. A regression analyses revealed that higher rates of bone remodeling are significantly and negatively correlated with lower ?15N. Our results suggest that the occipital bone, with its slow rate of bone renewal, may prove useful for isotopic studies that reconstruct diet over longer periods of time within an individual’s lifetime. Isotope studies that compare individual skeletal elements between populations should standardize their methodology to bones with either a slow or fast turnover rate.
  • Mahoney, P. et al. (2017). Enamel biorhythms of humans and great apes: the Havers-Halberg Oscillation hypothesis reconsidered. Journal of Anatomy [Online] 230:272-281. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/joa.12551.
    The Havers-Halberg Oscillation (HHO) hypothesis links evidence for the timing of a biorhythm retained in permanent tooth enamel (Retzius periodicity) to adult body mass and life history traits across mammals. Potentially, these links provide a way to access life history of fossil species from teeth. Recently we assessed intra-specific predictions of the HHO on human children. We reported Retzius periodicity (RP) corresponded with enamel thickness, and cusp formation time, when calculated from isolated deciduous teeth. We proposed the biorhythm might not remain constant within an individual. Here, we test our findings. RP is compared between deciduous second and permanent first molars within the maxillae of four human children. Following this, we report the first RPs for deciduous teeth from modern great apes (n = 4), and compare these with new data for permanent teeth (n = 18) from these species, as well as with previously published values. We also explore RP in teeth that retain hypoplastic defects. Results show RP changed within the maxilla of each child, from thinner to thicker enameled molars, and from one side of a hypoplastic defect to the other. When considered alongside correlations between RP and cusp formation time, these observations provide further evidence that RP is associated with enamel growth processes and does not always remain constant within an individual. RP of 5 days for great ape deciduous teeth lay below the lowermost range of those from permanent teeth of modern orangutan and gorilla, and within the lowermost range of RPs from chimpanzee permanent teeth. Our data suggest associations between RP and enamel growth processes of humans might extend to great apes. These findings provide a new framework from which to develop the HHO hypothesis, which can incorporate enamel growth along with other physiological systems. Applications of the HHO to fossil teeth should avoid transferring RP between deciduous and permanent enamel, or including hypoplastic teeth.
  • Mahoney, P. et al. (2016). Deciduous enamel 3D microwear texture analysis as an indicator of childhood diet in medieval Canterbury, England. Journal of Archaeological Science [Online] 66:128-136. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2016.01.007.
    This study conducted the first three dimensional microwear texture analysis of human deciduous teeth to reconstruct the physical properties of medieval childhood diet (age 1-8yrs) at St Gregory's Priory and Cemetery (11th to 16th century AD) in Canterbury, England. Occlusal texture complexity surfaces of maxillary molars from juvenile skeletons (n=44) were examined to assess dietary hardness. Anisotropy values were calculated to reconstruct dietary toughness, as well as jaw movements during chewing. Evidence of weaning was sought, and variation in the physical properties of food was assessed against age and socio-economic status. Results indicate that weaning had already commenced in the youngest children. Diet became tougher from four years of age, and harder from age six. Variation in microwear texture surfaces was related to historical textual evidence that refers to lifestyle developments for these age groups. Diet did not vary with socio-economic status, which differs to previously reported patterns for adults. We conclude, microwear texture analyses can provide a non-destructive tool for revealing subtle aspects of childhood diet in the past.
  • Mahoney, P. et al. (2016). Biorhythms, deciduous enamel thickness, and primary bone growth in modern human children: a test of the Havers-Halberg Oscillation hypothesis. Journal of Anatomy [Online] 228:919-928. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/joa.12450.
    Across mammalian species, the periodicity with which enamel layers form (Retzius periodicity) in permanent teeth corresponds with average body mass and the pace of life history. According to the Havers-Halberg Oscillation hypothesis (HHO), Retzius periodicity (RP) is a manifestation of a biorhythm that is also expressed in lamellar bone. Potentially, these links provide a basis for investigating aspects of a species’ biology from fossilized teeth. Here, we tested intra-specific predictions of this hypothesis on skeletal samples of human juveniles. We measured daily enamel growth increments to calculate RP in deciduous molars (n=25). Correlations were sought between RP, molar average and relative enamel thickness (AET, RET), and the average amount of primary bone growth (n=7) in humeri of age-matched juveniles.

    Results show a previously un-described relationship between RP and enamel thickness. Reduced major axis regression reveals RP is significantly and positively correlated with AET and RET, and scales isometrically. The direction of the correlation was opposite to HHO predictions as currently understood for human adults. Juveniles with higher RPs and thicker enamel had increased primary bone formation, which suggests a coordinating biorhythm. However, the direction of the correspondence was again, opposite to predictions. Next, we compared RP from deciduous molars to new data for permanent molars, and to previously published values. The lowermost RP of four and five days in deciduous enamel extends below the lowermost RP of six days in permanent enamel. A lowered range of RP values in deciduous enamel implies that the underlying biorhythm might change with age. Our results develop the intra-specific HHO hypothesis.

Conference or workshop item

  • Mahoney, P. et al. (2017). Biorhythm tracks enamel thickness in humans and great apes. in: The 86th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists. WILEY-LISS, DIV JOHN WILEY & SONS INC. Available at: http://meeting.physanth.org/program/2017/session28/mahoney-2017-biorhythm-tracks-enamel-thickness-in-humans-and-great-apes.html.
    Although evidence of a biorhythm retained in tooth enamel as Retzius periodicity (RP) was identified in the 19th century its significance for mammalian growth and life history has only recently been discovered. This study builds upon our recent work where we hypothesised the biorhythm may have a role in enamel growth, and that its periodicity may change from deciduous to permanent teeth. Here we test this hypothesis. We compare RP between deciduous second and permanent first molars within the maxillae of four human children. We report the first RP’s for deciduous teeth from modern great apes (n=4), and compare these to new data for permanent teeth (n=18) from these species, as well as to previously published values. Results show RP changed within the maxilla of each child, from thinner to thicker enameled molars. RP of 5 days for great ape deciduous teeth lay below the lowermost range of those from permanent teeth from modern orangutan and gorilla, and within the lowermost range of RP’s from chimpanzee permanent teeth. When considered alongside our earlier reported correlation between RP and formation time, these observations provide further evidence that RP is associated with enamel growth processes in humans, and can change from deciduous to permanent teeth within an individual. Our data suggest these associations might extend to great apes. We conclude that enamel growth should be considered alongside other physiological systems when developing predictions around RP as a measure of an underlying biorhythm.
  • Mahoney, P. et al. (2016). Biorhythms, deciduous enamel thickness, and primary bone growth in modern human children: a test of the Havers-Halberg Oscillation hypothesis. in: The 85th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2016). Wiley. Available at: http://meeting.physanth.org/program/2016/session12/mahoney-2016-biorhythms-deciduous-enamel-thickness-and-primary-bone-growth-in-modern-human-children-a-test-of-the-havers-halberg-oscillation-hypothesis.html.
    Across mammalian species, the periodicity with which enamel layers form (Retzius periodicity) in permanent teeth corresponds with average body mass and the pace of life history. According to the Havers-Halberg Oscillation hypothesis (HHO), Retzius periodicity (RP) is a manifestation of a biorhythm that is also expressed in lamellar bone. Potentially, these links provide a basis for investigating aspects of a species’ biology from fossilized teeth. Here, we tested intra-specific predictions of this hypothesis on skeletal samples of modern human juveniles. We measured daily enamel growth increments to calculate RP in deciduous molars (n=25). Correlations were sought between RP, molar average enamel thickness (AET), and the average amount of primary bone growth in humeri from age-matched juveniles.

    Results show a previously un-described relationship between RP and enamel thickness. Reduced major axis regression reveals RP is significantly and positively correlated with AET, and scales isometrically. The scaling relationship could not be explained through body mass. Juveniles with higher RPs and thicker enamel had more primary bone formation, which suggests a coordinating biorhythm. However, the direction of the correspondence was opposite to that predicted by the HHO. Next, we compared RP from deciduous molars to new data for permanent molars, and previously published values. The lowermost RP of four and five days in deciduous enamel was less than the lowermost value of six days in permanent enamel. A lowered range of RP values in deciduous enamel indicates that the underlying biorhythm might change with age. Our results develop the HHO.
  • Mahoney, P. et al. (2015). Social weaning: childhood diet and health in medieval Canterbury, UK. in: The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists. WILEY-LISS, DIV JOHN WILEY & SONS INC, p. . Available at: http://meeting.physanth.org/program/2015/session14/mahoney-2015-social-weaning-childhood-diet-and-health-in-medieval-canterbury-uk.html.
    Food consumption during the medieval period is understood mainly from adult diet, higher status families, and monastic communities. By contrast, there is little direct evidence for foods consumed by children, or whether their diet corresponded with health and status. Here, we address these questions in skeletal samples from the medieval city of Canterbury. We undertake the first comprehensive intra-specific microwear texture analysis of childhood diet (n=51) and integrate this with histological ‘snap-shots’ of general health from enamel accentuated markings (n=71). An adult comparative sample (n=11) is included.

    Microwear texture complexity values increased from age 1 to 4yrs while anisotropy values decreased suggesting that foods became harder and required more varied jaw movements during chewing. The 4.1-6 year olds had a significantly lower mean complexity value than younger children. Complexity values increased again while anisotropy decreased in 6.1-9 year olds. Prevalence of accentuated markings peaked at 6 months, early in the second year, and just before age 4yrs. Diet did not relate to childhood status, and adults consumed a greater range of softer and harder foods.

    Health of the youngest children likely relates to an immature immune system. Correspondence between a softer diet and improved health around age 4yrs may indicate the start of ‘social weaning’. Textual evidence refers to lifestyle changes from this age onwards, as children undertook household chores and then work outside the home. This might have provided less opportunity for early childhood dietary staples contaminated with grit, and initially introduced a softer but more nutritious adult food.
  • Mahoney, P. et al. (2015). Social weaning: childhood diet and health in medieval Canterbury, UK. in: The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2015). Wiley, p. . Available at: http://meeting.physanth.org/program/2015/session14/mahoney-2015-social-weaning-childhood-diet-and-health-in-medieval-canterbury-uk.html.
    Food consumption during the medieval period is understood mainly from adult diet, higher status families, and monastic communities. By contrast, there is little direct evidence for foods consumed by children, or whether their diet corresponded with health and status. Here, we address these questions in skeletal samples from the medieval city of Canterbury. We undertake the first comprehensive intra-specific microwear texture analysis of childhood diet (n=51) and integrate this with histological ‘snap-shots’ of general health from enamel accentuated markings (n=71). An adult comparative sample (n=11) is included. Microwear texture complexity values increased from age 1 to 4yrs while anisotropy values decreased suggesting that foods became harder and required more varied jaw movements during chewing. The 4.1-6 year olds had a significantly lower mean complexity value than younger children. Complexity values increased again while anisotropy decreased in 6.1-9 year olds. Prevalence of accentuated markings peaked at 6 months, early in the second year, and just before age 4yrs. Diet did not relate to childhood status, and adults consumed a greater range of softer and harder foods. Health of the youngest children likely relates to an immature immune system. Correspondence between a softer diet and improved health around age 4yrs may indicate the start of ‘social weaning’. Textual evidence refers to lifestyle changes from this age onwards, as children undertook household chores and then work outside the home. This might have provided less opportunity for early childhood dietary staples contaminated with grit, and initially introduced a softer but more nutritious adult food.

Research report (external)

  • Deter, C., Miszkiewicz, J. and Mahoney, P. (2011). Osteological analyses of cremated human remains KEMS-WEB-10. Kent Archaeological Projects.

Forthcoming

  • Mahoney, P. et al. (2018). Chapter 7. Dental microwear: 2D and 3D approaches. in: Parker Pearson, M., Richards, M. and Chamberlain, A. eds. The Beaker People: isotopes, mobility and diet in prehistoric Britain. Oxbow Books. Available at: https://www.oxbowbooks.com/oxbow/the-beaker-people.html.
  • Deter, C. et al. (2017). Chapter 6. Aspects of human osteology. in: Parker-Pearson, M., Richards, M. and Chamberlain, A. eds. The Beaker People: isotopes, mobility and diet in prehistoric Britain. Oxford: Oxbow. Available at: https://www.oxbowbooks.com/oxbow/the-beaker-people.html.
  • Mahoney, P. et al. Chapter 7 Dental microwear: 2D and 3D approaches. in: Parker Pearson, M. et al. eds. The Beaker People: Isotopes, Mobility and Diet in Prehistoric Britain. UK: Prehistoric Society Research Papers. Available at: https://www.oxbowbooks.com/oxbow/the-beaker-people.html.
Last updated