13000-year-old teeth with bitumen fillings found

A pair of 13000-year-old incisor teeth found at the Riparo Fredian site, near Lucca, Italy contain the earliest known use of man-made fillings made out of bitumen.

Bitumen fillings (by Stefano Benazzi)

Each of the two teeth feature large cavities with markings present on the walls of the holes which suggest that the cavities were hollowed out and enlarged by stone tools. Researchers analysing the holes found residues of bitumen, plant fibres and hair trapped in the filling. Archaeologists believe that the filling was chosen for its antiseptic qualities in order to prevent infection.

Incisor teeth (by Gregorio Oxilia)

While the purpose of the plants and hairs is unknown, it appears that they were added to the cavity at the same time as the drilling, so are not simply the remains of food eaten later. According to archaeologists, during the Upper Palaeolithic, at the time the owner of these teeth was alive, Europe was undergoing big cultural changes, as new people arrived on the continent from the Near East and might have brought with them new kinds of food, which led to more cavities, and in turn to development of Stone Age dentistry.

(after New Scientist, United Press International, Gregorio Oxilia & Stefano Benazzi)

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