Posted by Vishva News Reporter on May 25, 2006



Man Was Enduring the Dentist's Drill
9,000 Years Ago Near
Indus Valley Civilization

New York Times: By KYLE JARRARD: International Herald Tribune: Published: April 5, 2006

PARIS, April 5: Man's first known trip to the dentist occurred as early as 9,000 years ago, when at least 9 people living in a Neolithic village in Pakistan had holes drilled into their molars and survived the procedure.

The findings, to be reported Thursday in the scientific review Nature, push back the dawn of dentistry by 4,000 years to around 7000 B.C. The drilled molars come from a sample of 300 individuals buried in graves at the Mehrgarh site in western Pakistan, believed to be the oldest Stone Age complex in the Indus River valley.

"This is certainly the first case of drilling a person's teeth," said David Frayer, professor of anthropology at the University of Kansas and the lead author of the report. "But even more significant, this practice lasted some 1,500 years and was a tradition at this site. It wasn't just a sporadic event."

The earliest previously known evidence of dental work done in vivo was a drilled molar found in a Neolithic graveyard in Denmark dating from about 3000 B.C.

All 9 of the Mehrgarh dental patients were adults ? 4 females, 2 males, and 3 individuals of unknown gender ? and ranged in age from about 20 to over 40. Most of the drilling was done on the chewing surfaces of their molars, in both the upper and lower jaws, probably using a flint point attached to a bow that made a high-speed drill, the researchers say. Concentric ridges carved by the drilling device were found inside the holes.

The drilling may have been done to relieve the pain and damage of tooth rot, but only 4 of the total of 11 teeth showed signs of decay associated with the holes. The scientists say it is clear that the holes were not made for aesthetic reasons, given their position deep in the mouth and on the erosion-prone surface of the teeth.

While there is no evidence of fillings, the researchers believe something was used to plug the holes because some of them were bored deep into the teeth. What that filler substance was is unknown. The holes ranged in depth from a shallow half-a-millimeter to 3.5 millimeters, deep enough to pierce the enamel and enter the sensitive dentin.


Dental health was poor at Mehrgarh, though the problems were less often tooth decay than brutal wear and tear. Roberto Macchiarelli, professor of paleoanthropology at the University of Poitiers, France, and the report's lead anthropological researcher, attributed the bad teeth to the Neolithic diet, which included newly domesticated wheat and barley.

"A lot of abrasive mineral material was introduced when grains were ground on a stone," Professor Macchiarelli said, "and as these people moved to a grain diet, their teeth wore down, dentin was exposed, and the risk of infection rose."
The Mehrgarh complex, occupied for 4,000 years, sits beside the Bolan River in Baluchistan, on a plain that was repeatedly buried in alluvial deposits that not only destroyed mud-brick buildings but crushed many skeletons in the graveyard. The excavation of 300 individuals was begun by a French team in the 1980's; international groups followed until 2001, when it became too dangerous to work in Baluchistan.

None of the individuals with drilled teeth appears to have come from a special tomb or sanctuary, indicating that the oral health care they received was available to anyone in the society.

Professor Frayer said that, given the position of the holes and the angles of the drilling, "we're pretty sure these were not self-induced." That the patients lived to tell the tale of their dental visit is proved, he says, by subsequent wearing down of their teeth and by deliberate smoothing and widening of the holes later on.

The dentists may have been highly skilled artisans at Mehrgarh, where beads of imported lapis lazuli, turquoise, and carnelian were found drilled with holes even smaller than the ones in the nine individuals. Discovered among the beads were finely tipped drill heads.

"The drilling of teeth is very rare in the anthropological record," said Professor Macchiarelli, noting that work similar to that done at Mehrgarh does not recur until much later, among the Anasazi Indians of the southwest United States around 1100 A.D., and in Europe around 1500 A.D.

[The 1,500-year-long tradition of drill work at Mehrgarh appears not to have been passed down to later cultures. There is no evidence that the Chalcolithic, or Copper Age, people who next lived there ever visited the dentist. Why the practice came to a halt is not known.

Please click on the next line to learn the history of the Mehgrah which is the site of the archeological discovery noted in today's news story and additional reports from BBC.....This story shows that Indus Valley civilization had very highly evolved humanity but disappeared for some reason....similar to the many highly evolved human civilizations in Mexico and South America....


rom Wikipedia: click on the yellow hilite for more about Mehgrah)

Mehrgarh was an ancient settlement in South Asia and is one of the most important sites in archaeology for the study of the earliest neolithic settlements in that region. The remains are located in Balochistan, Pakistan, on the Kachi plain near the Bolan Pass, to the west of the Indus River valley and between the present-day cities of Quetta, Kalat and Sibi. The earliest evidence of settlement dates from 7000 BCE.

Prehistoric dentistry evidence found
Near Indus Valley Civilization


Tiny holes found in teeth suggest even prehistoric man may have had to fear the dentist's drill.

Remains found at Mehrgarh, Baluchistan, part of what is now Pakistan, show dental decay may have been treated 8,000-9,000 years ago.

It is some of the earliest evidence of dentistry.

Archaeologists discovered perfect tiny holes in two molar teeth from the remains of different men.

"It is very tantalising to think they had such knowledge of health and cavities and medicine to do this" said Professor Andrea Cucina,
University of Missouri-Columbia.

The people of that time and area were extremely sophisticated.

They cultivated crops and made intricate jewellery from shells, amethysts and turquoise.

But before this discovery was made, no one was aware they also had dentistry skills.

Andrea Cucina, from the University of Missouri-Columbia made the discovery last year when he was cleaning the teeth from one of the men.



He and colleagues ruled out other possibilities including dental decoration such as tooth sharpening.

As they were still attached to the jaw, the teeth were not used as part of a necklace.

The teeth were also rounded from chewing, and the scientists say hollowing out the teeth does not appear to have been part of the society's funeral rites.
Concentric grooves

Under a microscope, the scientists discovered the holes were too perfectly round to have been caused by bacteria.

But they did see concentric grooves left by what they think was a drill with a tiny stone bit.

Although no drill has been found, archaeologists have discovered beads of the same 2.5mm diameter as the holes found in the teeth, indicating the people did have the capacity to do delicate work.

The physical anthropologist who carried out the examinations, Professor Andrea Cucina said the work could have been done to treat tooth decay, and suggested some plant or other material, which would have since decayed, could have been inserted into the hole.

He said: "At this point we can't be certain, but it is very tantalising to think they had such knowledge of health and cavities and medicine to do this."

He told BBC News Online: "The more I look at the teeth and the more I talk with other people who are dealing with dental examination, the more I'm convinced they were trying to reduce pain.

"We know that in that population, they used to scratch their gums to relieve itching and inflammation," something he said was still used in some societies today.


A spokesman for the British Dental Association said dentistry using stone tools would have been possible but "surprising" given that operative conservative dentistry did not emerge until much later.

He said previous evidence of early dentistry had been traced back 6,000 years to China and India where false teeth were used, but he added there was no sign then of any method of conserving the teeth, such as drilling and filling.

In 3000 BC, the Egyptians are known to have been skilled and knowledgeable dentists, and able to drill teeth and jaws to relieve pain.

Grains of salt were also used as a remedy for tooth decay.

The Mayans in Mexico used stone drills, made from obsidian or jade, on "live" teeth in the ninth century AD, though that was mainly for decorative and ceremonial, rather than dentistry purposes, said the BDA spokesman.

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