Stone Age people filled tooth with beeswax

6, 500-year-old tooth shows traces of a medical dental treatment

The yellow dashed line indicates the wax filling in the 6, 500-year-old canine. © Bernardini et al. (2012) PLoS ONE doi: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0044904
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As early as 6, 500 years ago, humans may have fought toothache with tooth fillings. This is indicated by a well-preserved piece of pine, which was excavated in Slovenia and has been stored in the Natural History Museum of Trieste, Italy. An international research team screened the teeth of the jaw piece using X-rays and infrared rays, among other things, and found that a canine was filled with beeswax.

The scientists could not clearly prove whether the filling was made before the death of the Zahnträgers, or only after this had died. If the first one comes in, the wax was probably used to fill a crack in the tooth and thus relieve toothache, the researchers report in the journal "PLOS ONE". Your find would be the oldest evidence for a therapeutic dental treatment.

So far, there are only a handful of indications that people treated their toothache medically in the Stone Age with crowns or fillings. The oldest find so far dates back to the Neolithic Age over 7, 500 years BC. back. In a burial place in Pakistan one found several boreholes in molars. But there is real evidence of therapeutic dental treatment only from recent times. Thus, ancient Egyptian scriptures date from 1, 600 years BC. about methods of re-adhering teeth with a mixture of honey and minerals.

"Our find is perhaps the oldest known example that points to a therapeutic, pain-relieving filling, " says study leader Federico Bernardini from Abdus Salam International Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste. The researchers had discovered this when they examined a well preserved piece of jaw. This was excavated from the Kalkspat a cave near the village of Lonche in south-western Slovenia and has so far been exhibited in the Natural History Museum of Trieste. For the researchers, it was an interesting object of investigation, since it is considered the oldest human find from the northern Adriatic region so far.

A tear runs through the canine

The bone remains consist only of a broken-off piece of the left lower jaw, which still carries a canine, two anterior molars and two posterior molars. With the radiocarbon method, with the help of the radioactivity of carbon can determine the age of organic material, the researchers proved in that the jawbone is 6645-6440 years old. A CT scan also showed that the canine is not only severely worn, but also has a vertical tear, the researchers report. display

However, the root-deep crack in the tooth could not be detected by filling with the naked eye. In order to examine the filling material more precisely, the researchers took tiny samples of them and illuminated them with infrared rays. Based on the radiation spectrum, the researchers recognized that this is beeswax.

However, due to the inaccuracy of the dating methods, the scientists were unable to determine unequivocally whether the filling was made before the tooth wearer died, or the wax only melted into the tooth after it had died. But it was already known then that beeswax binds very well, it could in fact have been purposely used as a dental filling to reduce the sensitivity of the tooth, the researchers say. (Doi: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0044904)

(PLoS ONE, 20.09.2012 - IRE)