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Beeswax as Dental Filling on a Neolithic Human Tooth : 6,500 years Ago


Abstract

Evidence of prehistoric dentistry has been limited to a few cases, the most ancient dating back to the Neolithic. Here we report a 6500-year-old human mandible from Slovenia whose left canine crown bears the traces of a filling with beeswax. The use of different analytical techniques, including synchrotron radiation computed micro-tomography (micro-CT), Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dating, Infrared (IR) Spectroscopy and Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), has shown that the exposed area of dentine resulting from occlusal wear and the upper part of a vertical crack affecting enamel and dentin tissues were filled with beeswax shortly before or after the individual’s death. If the filling was done when the person was still alive, the intervention was likely aimed to relieve tooth sensitivity derived from either exposed dentine and/or the pain resulting from chewing on a cracked tooth: this would provide the earliest known direct evidence of therapeutic-palliative dental filling.

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

Editor: Luca Bondioli,         Museo Nazionale Preistorico Etnografico ‘L. Pigorini’, Italy

Received: April 20, 2012; Accepted: August 9, 2012; Published: September 19, 2012

Copyright: © 2012 Bernardini et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Funding: 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 interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

* E-mail: fbernard@ictp.it

Full Article:http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0044904#

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