The science of anthropology obtains data on health, disease and death from ancient populations. Research on the skeletal remains of human teeth and surrounding tissues provides useful information on the evolutionary perspective of dental and periodontal diseases. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence and severity of periodontal diseases in the skeletal remains of 33 Assos inhabitants of the 4th century BC. Three age groups were constituted for the studied population. Periodontal disease status was determined based on the textural and architectural variations of the interdental septum and the extent of bone loss. It was found that the prevalence of periodontal diseases increased with age. The severity of periodontal bone loss also increased with age and the mean alveolar bone loss between age groups was statistically significant (P=0.004). This analysis of the dental health of ancient populations provides insights into the aetiology, patterns and distribution of periodontitis, which has a very complex disease pathogenesis. Copyright (c) 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.