A 14,000-year-old molar of a young man shows the earliest evidence of dentistry, a new report says.
“It predates any undisputed evidence of dental and cranial surgery, currently represented by dental drillings and cranial trephinations dating back to the Mesolithic-Neolithic period, about 9,000-7,000 years ago,” says Stefano Benazzi, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Bologna who led the study.
The infected tooth had been cleaned with flint tools, the report claims. Previously, the earliest known examples of dentistry were a beeswax dental filling discovered in a 6,500-year-old human tooth from Slovenia and evidence of dental drilling in 9,000-year-old molars found in Pakistan.
Benazzi and colleagues discovered evidence of work on the tooth using scanning electron microscopy that showed striations in the surface of the large cavity.
“They were the result of a variety of gestures and movements associated with slicing a microlithic point in different directions,” Benazzi told ABC news. “Basically, the infected tissue was picked away from inside the tooth carefully using a small, sharp stone tool.”
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
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