Prehistoric dental modification in West Africa: Early evidence from Karkarichinkat Nord, Mali

Institute of Archaeology, Oxford University, OX1 3QY, Oxford, UK
International Journal of Osteoarchaeology (Impact Factor: 0.95). 11/2008; 18(6). DOI: 10.1002/oa.957


This paper reports the earliest securely dated evidence for intentional dental modification in West Africa. Human remains representing 11 individuals were recovered from the sites of Karkarichikat Nord (KN05) and Karkarichinkat Sud (KS05) in the lower Tilemsi Valley of eastern Mali. The modified anterior maxillary dentitions of four individuals were recovered from KN05. The dental modification involved the removal of the mesial and distal angles of the incisor, as well as the mesial angles of the canines. The modifications did not result from task-specific wear or trauma, but appear instead to have been produced for aesthetic purposes. All of the filed teeth belonged to probable females, suggesting the possibility of sex-specific cultural modification. Radiocarbon dates from the site indicate that the remains pertain to the Late Stone Age (ca. 4500–4200 BP). Dental modification has not previously been reported from this region of West Africa and our findings indicate that the practice was more widespread during prehistory.

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    • "Perhaps, the dental wear documented in the individual two was the result of the use of the teeth for this type of work. In this regard, although dental modification was a common practice among the African Diaspora (Stewart, 1939; Stewart and Groome, 1968; Alpers, 2001; Finucane et al., 2008), and it has been recorded in skeletons of slave populations of African origin from colonial "
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