|Figure 1. |
The Lonche jaw.
Scale bar, 10 mm.
While dentists and their oversized bills are a modern development, ancient peoples also had to face the painful and sometimes deadly problems derived of damaged teeth. In some cases they found what seem to be acceptable home-made solutions:
Federico Bernardini et al. Beeswax as Dental Filling on a Neolithic Human Tooth. PLoS ONE 2012. Open access ··> LINK [doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0044904]
The authors mention previous findings in Pakistan (regularly modified cavities) as the actual known oldest record of non-extractive dentistry, dating to 7500-9500 years ago (Coppa et al. 2006) but this one seems to be the oldest record of effective preserved filling.
The finding corresponds to an individual known as Lonche 1, found in the cave of Lonche in 1937 when the area was Italian territory (now it belongs to Slovenia) and preserved in the Natural History Museum of Trieste with a not of limited informative value about the context of the finding: Upper Pleistocene fauna, believed originally to be one of the oldest human findings in the region.
However radiocarbon analysis performed directly on the bone provides an age of 6655-6400 cal. BP, corresponding to the Neolithic (Cardium Pottery, post-Vlaška phase). The authors provide us with a succinct description of the cultural context that I truly appreciate:
The area, at the northern shore of the Adriatic Sea, is rich in archaeological cave sites and rock shelters, many of which were occupied during recent prehistory and mainly used for stabling animals. In fact, the Neolithic economy of the karstic area was mainly based on sheep breeding . The neolithization process spread through northern Istria and Trieste Karst in the middle of the 6th millennium BC, coming from the south along the eastern Adriatic coast, and is referred to as the so-called Vlaška Culture. This culture shows connections with the Danilo Culture of central Dalmatia and the first Neolithic sites of the Friuli plain and lasts up to the beginning of the 5th millennium BC. The post-Vlaška assemblages (5th millennium BC) are not yet well understood and a clear chrono-cultural sequence is not available. It seems that there was no substantial change with respect to previous pottery shapes, some of which disappeared , . However, a few and new typological elements suggest cultural affinities with Dalmatia (Hvar Culture) and northern Italy (Square Mouthed Pottery Culture).