Italian researchers using x-ray imaging have discovered the earliest dental filling in a broken Stone Age tooth dating back to some 6500 years ago.
The groundbreaking discovery demonstrates a surprisingly sophisticated knowledge of dentistry in the far past era.
The fossilized jawbone, which is believed to have belonged to a 24 to 30-year-old, was found in 1911, in Slovenia, and filed away in a museum in Trieste, Italy.
“The jawbone remained in the museum for 101 years without anybody noticing anything strange,” explained Claudio Tuniz, from the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste.
According to the findings published on an online science website PLOS One, the high-resolution 3D picture of the tooth revealed a long vertical crack and large cavity in the tooth perfectly filled with the material as beeswax.
The experts suggest the beeswax may have been used to plug the cracked and worn tooth while its owner was still alive.
“Beeswax would make sense as a filling material for a number of reasons,” said Stephen Buckley at the University of York, UK, adding that it could have been a ritual performed after death.
Beeswax, as it is used Egyptian mummification, contains honey and propolis, both of which have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, Buckley explained.
“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,” said co-author Federico Bernardini.
The recent discovery is not the earliest example of prehistoric dentistry in the world as in 2001 researchers found drill holes in 11 human molars in a graveyard in Pakistan, believed to be 7500 to 9000 years old.
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