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Stone-age dental filling identified

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Stone-age dental filling identified
The research findings were published Sept. 19 in PLoS ONE, the peer-reviewed, open-access journal, accessible at

The team acknowledges in its paper that it cannot be absolutely certain that the beeswax filling was placed in the tooth in an effort to address a dental problem the individual was experiencing while alive. But the paper identifies that as being the most likely of the possible scenarios that would explain the presence of the substance on a worn-down tooth that otherwise would have had exposed dentin.

“The tooth probably became very sensitive, limiting the functionality of the jaw during occlusion. The occlusal surface could have been filled with beeswax in an attempt to reduce the pain [by] sealing exposed dentin tubules and the fracture from changes in osmotic pressure (as occurs on contact with sugar) and temperature (hot or cold relative to the oral cavity),” the team wrote.

The piece of jawbone with five teeth still attached was discovered long before the team’s research was conducted. It was excavated from a cave wall near the village of Loche, Istria, in Slovenia and was initially dated based on associated fauna remains, which traced to the Upper Pleistocene era.

The team reported that the specimen was considered to be “one of the most ancient anthropological remains from the northern-Adriatic area.” But the find had never been subjected to detailed analysis until the researchers secured permission to study the mandible using state-of-the-art scanning technology and radiocarbon dating techniques.

Permission was granted by Italy’s Natural History Museum of Trieste, to whom the original finders had donated the specimen. The mandible, determined to be from a male who died in his 20s, was described by the team as, “the left portion of an isolated adult mandible bearing a canine, two premolars, and the first two molars.”



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