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Truth-Telling Teeth is Topic for October Science Cafe

Carolyn Freiwald (right), UM assistant professor of sociology, and Stephanie Orsini, a graduate student in anthropology, work at an archaeological dig beside the former slave quarters at the Hugh Craft House in Holly Springs. Submitted photo
The use of teeth in anthropological investigations and modern forensics is the topic for a monthly public science forum organized by the University of Mississippi Department of Physics and Astronomy.
The fall semester’s second meeting of the Oxford Science Cafe is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday (Oct. 17) at Lusa Bakery Bistro and Bar, 1120 North Lamar Blvd. Carolyn Freiwald, UM assistant professor of anthropology, will discuss “This is your life in a tooth.” Admission is free.
“A single tooth contains a record of your life, from the types of food that you ate to where you lived, to how healthy you were as a child,” Freiwald said. “In this presentation, we’ll look at how science works to help us solve both ancient and modern mysteries.”
Friewald’s 45-minute presentation also will cover how bone chemistry has important applications in forensic cases, including identifying missing persons.
“Archaeologists use chemistry to reconstruct the past, learning what ancient people ate and drank, and discovering just how mobile they were,” she said. “Vegetarians and barbecue lovers have different chemical markers, and so do people with jobs such as blacksmiths. It is ‘you are what you eat’ at the molecular level.”
An organizer of the Science Cafe programs said Freiwald’s discussion should be most interesting.
“Dr. Freiwald’s work bridges two disciplines: anthropology that studies aspects of human society, and chemistry that studies the natural world we humans live in,” said Marco Cavaglia, professor of physics and astronomy. “Her presentations are sure to be fascinating and enlightening.”
Freiwald received her master’s and doctoral degrees from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, entering graduate school after earning a bachelor’s degree in history and international relations.
Her research interests are ancient Latin American civilizations, and she has ongoing research projects in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras. Freiwald also has worked on archaeology projects in the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Panama, Romania, Denmark, and the Upper Midwest and Mississippi.
For more information about Oxford Science Cafe programs, go to https://www.phy.olemiss.edu/oxfordsciencecafe. For more information about the Department of Physics and Astronomy, visit https://www.olemiss.edu/depts/physics_and_astronomy or call 662-915-7046.


By Edwin B. Smith

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