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Earliest tooth-fillings discovered in 13,000-year-old skeleton

Press Trust of India  |  London 

Scientists have discovered 13,000- year-old teeth with traces of a tar-like substance at an ice age site in Italy, which is the oldest known example of tooth-filling.

Archaeologists unearthed the skeletal remains of a person who lived about 13,000 years ago in northern

The person's two front teeth (or upper central incisors) both had big holes in the surface that reach down to the tooth's pulp chamber.

Stefano Benazzi, an archaeologist at the University of Bologna in Italy, said that the only earlier example of such paleo-dentistry comes from a nearby site.

This specimen, a 14,000-year-old tooth from Villabruna in northern with a scraped-out, but not filled, cavity.

Researchers recently analysed horizontal striations inside the tooth holes, and concluded that these scratch marks were most likely produced by the scraping and twisting of a hand-held tool.

The person was probably in pain from necrotic or infected tooth pulp inside the teeth; seeking relief, they might have intentionally scooped out the decayed tissue, enlarging their cavities in the process, 'Live Science' reported.

Inside the tooth cavities, there were traces of bitumen, a tar-like substance that might have been used as an antiseptic or a filling to protect the tooth from getting infected, the researchers said.

This may be the oldest known example of tooth-filling, they said.

"Until now, the earliest evidence of dental filling came from a 6,500-year-old human tooth from Slovenia," said Alejandra Ortiz, a postdoctoral researcher at Arizona State University.

"This new finding adds another piece of information for a possible emergence of oral health practices before modern carbohydrate-rich diets led to an enormous increase in dental caries," Ortiz said.

The study was published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, April 19 2017. 14:42 IST