Friday, September 28, 2007


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

"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."

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 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.

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.

The New York Times

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