Public Release:  Ancient tooth may provide evidence of early human dentistry

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IMAGE: This is a microphotograph of the tooth crown in occlusal view with indication of the surface covered by beeswax (within the yellow dotted line). view more

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 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.

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Financial Disclosure: This work is part of the ICTP/Elettra EXACT Project (Elemental X-ray Analysis and computed Tomography) funded by Friuli Venezia Giulia (Italy). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interest Statement: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Citation: 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

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http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0044904

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