Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Zuckerman, Molly K.

Committee Member

Miller, D. Shane

Committee Member

Jordan, Heather

Committee Member

Herrmann, Nicholas

Date of Degree


Document Type

Graduate Thesis - Open Access


Applied Anthropology

Degree Name

Master of Arts


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures


The human oral microbiome is the total amount of microbial biodiversity present in the oral cavity and, given its relevance to human health and disease, has recently become a foci for study. By analyzing dental calculus, and sequencing the bacterial DNA, it is possible to reconstruct and examine the oral microbiomes of past individuals. In this study, dental calculus was sampled from (N=4) skeletons recovered from the cemetery of the mid 19th- 20th, century Mississippi State Asylum in Jackson, MS. Bacterial DNA isolation and shotgun sequencing were successful, with 16S analyses yielding an average of 96 identified species. All samples were significantly different from each other at all taxonomic levels (p <0.0001). Targeted examinations for opportunistically pathogenic oral bacteria were performed, but no detectable bacterial DNA was found in the samples. This study is the first to reconstruct the oral microbiomes of a subsample of an historic institutionalized population.