Ancient tooth may provide evidence of early human dentistry

Sep 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: Lead in teeth can tell a body's tale

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

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Painless plasma jets could replace dentist's drill

Jan 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 Mi ...

Recommended for you

Fragment of Ice Age ivory lion gets its head back

5 hours ago

Archaeologists from the University of Tübingen have found an ancient fragment of ivory belonging to a 40,000 year old animal figurine. Both pieces were found in the Vogelherd Cave in southwestern Germany, ...

Violent aftermath for the warriors at Alken Enge

Jul 29, 2014

Denmark attracted international attention in 2012 when archaeological excavations revealed the bones of an entire army, whose warriors had been thrown into the bogs near the Alken Enge wetlands in East Jutland ...

Dinosaurs doing well before asteroid impact

Jul 29, 2014

A new analysis of fossils from the last years of the dinosaurs concludes that extra-terrestrial impact was likely the sole cause of extinction in most cases.

User comments : 0