Tag Archives: teeth

Cooking a Nearly Two Million Year Old Practice

Recent excavations and analysis of the molars of Homo erectus and Homo sapiens neanderthalensis suggest that human ancestors began cooking much earlier than originally thought. The introduction of culturally treating food (specifically cooking) directly correlates to smaller molar size in human beings (as thick enamel and wide chewing surfaces are no longer necessary).

Paleoanthropologists have suggested that the the decreasing size of molars in proto-humans suggests that our ancestors were cooking as early as two million years ago. The finding, however, is not without controversy as the connection with cooking also suggest other sophisticated tool use – specifically the control of fire.

“There isn’t a lot of good evidence for fire. That’s kind of controversial,” Organ said. “That’s one of the holes in this cooking hypothesis. If those species right then were cooking you should find evidence for hearths and fire pits.” (MSNBC)

These new findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. If you do not have a subscription to this esteemed article, you can read more about it in this article of Scientific American or at MSNBC.

Viking Burial Shows Warrior Sported Filed Teeth

My friend and former colleague from California State University Long BeachDouglas Forasté sent me this article today and my fascination with body modification was stirred. Recent excavations of a Viking Burial in Dorset England have revealed that at least one occupant of the mass grave had filed teeth.

The burial pit in Dorset, dates to around the first millennium AD, contains 51 skulls and 54 human bodies. It appears to be a site of mass burial after a formal execution.

Tooth filing is a common form of body modification in which the teeth can be filed down (often in to points) or other wise carved with symbols and designs. The practice is not only painful, but can be dangerous as a poorly skilled ‘filer’ can easily expose a root and thus kill the tooth (potentially leading to infection and even death).

Oxford Archaeology project manager David Score said: “It’s difficult to say how painful the process of filing teeth may have been, but it wouldn’t have been a pleasant experience.

To read more about these findings, check out the article in the BBC.