Thursday, June 15, 2006

'Fang' dentures link to skeleton

BBC NEWS : "A man whose 4,500-year-old bones were found in Mexico may have worn ceremonial dentures made from jaguar or wolf fangs, an archaeologist claims.

The find is said to represent one of the earliest examples of dentistry in the Americas.

The man's remains were found in volcanic ash beneath a cliff painted with ancient rock art in a remote mountain region of western Mexico.

James Chatters, an archaeologist and palaeontologist with Amec Earth and Environmental and a member of the research team, said the man's upper and front teeth had been removed - possibly to insert a ceremonial denture made from the palate of a wolf or a jaguar.

"Such a denture might be something like the mouthparts of a predatory animal or some fierce animal of some sort," he said.

It was also possible the man's teeth had been cut off for cosmetic reasons, or to indicate special status, perhaps as a priest or shaman, Dr Chatters said.

He would not have been able to bite with his front teeth but appears to have been well-fed. An examination of the body indicates he did not do hard work, perhaps having been an important person in the society.

The man may have died from an infection related to his dental work, Dr Chatters explained.

"They cut his teeth off right down to gum and exposed the pulp cavity, and he had two abscesses in his mouth at the time he died. Blood poisoning is a possibility there," he said."