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An ancient tooth patched with beeswax filling and was recovered from Slovenia a hundred years ago could very well be the oldest evidence of ancient dentistry. According to a report by researchers published in the PLoS ONE journal last week, the beeswax filling is 6,500 years old and was applied on a tooth recovered from Italy. It was estimated that the person who owned it could be in his 20s. Furthermore, the extreme wear on the tooth is evident of other activities like making tools, weaving and softening leather where it was used, aside from eating. Radiocarbon dating performed on the beeswax and a large ion accelerator, revealing it to be thousands of years old. The particular jaw has been in an international center for a hundred years and yet no one noticed something interesting in it until recently. The beeswax is apparently applied to the left tooth of a jaw around the time of death but scientists cannot determine if it was before or after. But if the person was still alive when the beeswax was applied to his tooth, then this discovery could be the oldest evidence of therapeutic dentistry in the European region. Experts assume that the beeswax application might be for relieving sensitivity and pain in teeth so they are now looking into dental tests to verify if this treatment will be effective. “At the moment we do not have any idea if this is an isolated case or if similar interventions were quite spread in Neolithic Europe. In collaboration with our interdisciplinary team, we are planning to analyze other Neolithic teeth in order to understand how widespread these types of interventions were,” said archeologist Federico Bernardini.
On the other hand, it is also possible that the beeswax was placed on the tooth after death as part of burial customs at that time, and that the crack they found was due to its exposure for many years. This particular hypothesis is believed to be unlikely because of how the beeswax was placed in the crack. Discovering proof of ancient dentistry is very rare, with oldest examples dating back from 5000 to 9000 year-old teeth found in the Middle East.