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Ancient tooth may provide evidence of early human dentistry

Date:
September 19, 2012
Source:
Public Library of Science
Summary:
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.

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 Sept. 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 dentin 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 dentistry 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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Federico Bernardini, Claudio Tuniz, Alfredo Coppa, Lucia Mancini, Diego Dreossi, Diane Eichert, Gianluca Turco, Matteo Biasotto, Filippo Terrasi, Nicola De Cesare, Quan Hua, Vladimir Levchenko. Beeswax as Dental Filling on a Neolithic Human Tooth. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (9): e44904 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0044904

Cite This Page:

Public Library of Science. "Ancient tooth may provide evidence of early human dentistry." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 September 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120919190920.htm>.
Public Library of Science. (2012, September 19). Ancient tooth may provide evidence of early human dentistry. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120919190920.htm
Public Library of Science. "Ancient tooth may provide evidence of early human dentistry." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120919190920.htm (accessed August 31, 2014).

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