In 1990 the American Society of Dentistry for Children held its Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. At that time the Smithsonian Institution was in the process of complying with a court ordered repatriation of Aleut skeletal remains that had been collected by Ales Hrdlicka in 1938 and others from 1947 to 1950.
The Department of the Interior (DOI) had given notice in accordance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) that they had completed an inventory of the human remains found in a cave on Kagamil Island, AK. The notice of completion of the inventory dated July 14, 2008 noting the dates of recovery and the contents of the caves is available online and contains a listing of many Aleut burial artifacts.
After the inventory of funerary objects and skeletal remains had been completed, the DOI requested that these objects be returned to native Aleut authorities in Alaska.
At the request of the Department of Pediatric Dentistry at The University of California, Los Angeles, the Smithsonian agreed in early 1990 to allow the school to examine the Aleut skeletal remains stored at the Smithsonian Institution.
Dr. Ales Hrdlicka, curator of physical anthropology, had collected these remains in July and August of 1936. The investigation of the sites on the Aleutian chain was facilitated by the U.S. Coast Guard cutter “Shoshone” that provided very efficient transportation to Kodiak and Kagamil Island in the Islands of the Four Mountains. Kagamil Island is located in mid- Aleutian chain and the site of highly important burial caves.
When it was learned that the Kagamil collection of skeletal material was near to repatriation, the U.C.L.A. faculty decided to visit the Smithsonian to take lateral cephalometric x-rays and 35mm transparency slides of a portion of the Hrdlicka collection after the ASDC Annual Meeting in October of 1990.
Examination and photography of the Aleut skulls and mandibles was carried out over a very short period, resulting in non-oriented cephalograms. However, several detached mandibles demonstrating pathology were photographed for subsequent review. The cephalograms were not traced or reviewed, however the photographs of the mixed dentition mandibles were digitized for analysis.
The condition of the skeletal material is superior in every aspect, likely because of the presence of a volcanic vent that dried out the bodies beyond simply being wrapped and placed in a cave.
A Timetable of Events
The time of occupation of Kagamil Island is thought to occur in the late pre-history period. The exact dates of the use of the caves on Kagamil is uncertain, however the caves were in use when Russia sent Vitus Bering to the Aleutians in 1741.
A window into the nature of the maturation of the dentition of the Aleut population is afforded by reviewing previously obtained records that have not been reported prior to this date. In the case of mixed dentition analysis of remains found in caves located on Kagamil Island, there is some evidence that this population displays eruptive patterns that closely mimic those of our current patient population. While it is not possible to obtain definitive intra-oral x-rays of this Aleut cohort due to repatriation, some evidence exists that the pathology observed is suggestive of infraocclusion accompanied by putative ankylosis…a possible genetic fault that occurs in the periodontal ligament of primary molars that creates substantial oral pathology.
This video file of a Kagamil mandible allows the blog visitor to analyze the occlusal relationship of the second primary molar. Is the primary molar below the occlusal plane suggesting ankylosis? Periapical x-rays are not available due to repatriation of the skeletal material. The potential loss of arch length when the permanent molar "over-rides" the second primary molar often creates a substantial treatment liability, including the possible need for oral surgery and orthodontic management.Arch length compromise severely affects the management of the transitional dentition and often creates an extended treatment plan. Early detection of ankylosis in the primary dentition is paramount and must be identified as early as possible. Identification after severe occlusal disharmony is discovered places an additional burden on the parents often extending the treatment of this pathologic entity.
Dedicated to the Memory of Thomas K. Barber DDS MS., Emeritus Professor of Pediatric Dentistry at U.C.L.A.