Ancient tooth may provide evidence of early human dentistry

September 19, 2012
This is a microphotograph of the tooth crown in occlusal view with indication of the surface covered by beeswax (within the yellow dotted line). Credit: Bernardini F, Tuniz C, Coppa A, Mancini L, Dreossi D, et al. (2012) Beeswax as Dental Filling on a Neolithic Human Tooth. PLoS ONE 7(9): e44904. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0044904

Researchers may have uncovered new evidence of ancient dentistry in the form of a 6,500-year-old human jaw bone with a tooth showing traces of beeswax filling, as reported Sep. 19 in the open access journal PLOS ONE.

The researchers, led by Federico Bernardini and Claudio Tuniz of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Italy in cooperation with Sincrotrone Trieste and other institutions, write that the beeswax was applied around the time of the individual's death, but cannot confirm whether it was shortly before or after. If it was before death, however, they write that it was likely intended to reduce pain and sensitivity from a vertical crack in the enamel and layers of the tooth.

According to Tuniz, the severe wear of the tooth "is probably also due to its use in non-alimentary activities, possibly such as weaving, generally performed by Neolithic females."

Evidence of prehistoric is sparse, so this new specimen, found in Slovenia near Trieste, may help provide insight into early dental practices.

"This finding is perhaps the most ancient evidence of pre-historic dentistry in Europe and the earliest known direct example of therapeutic-palliative dental filling so far", says Bernardini.

Explore further: Improper consumption of acidic foods could lead to destroyed enamel

More information: Bernardini F, Tuniz C, Coppa A, Mancini L, Dreossi D, et al. (2012) Beeswax as Dental Filling on a Neolithic Human Tooth. PLoS ONE 7(9): e44904. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0044904

Related Stories

Painless plasma jets could replace dentist's drill

January 19, 2010

Plasma jets capable of obliterating tooth decay-causing bacteria could be an effective and less painful alternative to the dentist's drill, according to a new study published in the February issue of the Journal of Medical ...

Recommended for you

The couple who Facebooks together, stays together

July 27, 2015

Becoming "Facebook official" is a milestone in modern romance, and new research suggests that activities on the popular social networking site are connected to whether those relationships last.

Oldest known Koran text fragments discovered

July 23, 2015

Two pages of text written on parchment that are believed to be sections of the Koran (Chapters 18 and 20) have been discovered by a PhD student in a British university library and are believed to be the oldest ever found. ...

First evidence of farming in Mideast

July 22, 2015

Until now, researchers believed farming was "invented" some 12,000 years ago in the Cradle of Civilization—Iraq, the Levant, parts of Turkey and Iran—an area that was home to some of the earliest known human civilizations. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.