Stories told by our ancestors’ teeth

Stories told by our ancestors’ teeth

We all love to hear stories about the people who came before us. It’s human nature: we want to know where we come from. And science can tell us a lot about our ancestors’ live and death.

Human remains found in archaeological sites, like bones, soft tissue or teeth can describe, in great detail, how humans lived thousands of years ago.

It’s amazing how much you can know just by examining an incomplete set of teeth! For example, you can tell more or less how many years someone lived by examining the wear of the teeth.

Another amazing thing you can see if you look closely at the teeth of our ancestors is what their diet was like. If they ate mainly raw food, for example, you will see different markings on the teeth. You can even tell if they were already cooking food, just by checking for signs of charcoal or smoke.

And, of course, humans started to alter their bodies early on, for aesthetic, religious and even practical reasons. It’s very common to see filled teeth, sometimes for aesthetic purposes, sometimes to try and “remove” cavities. The Etruscans already had gold fillings!

As a dentist I find this fascinating, but as a man I am completely baffled at how much something like a tooth can tell to someone who knows how to look at it carefully. It makes you wonder, what will your teeth tell one day?


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