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

ABSTRACT 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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Available from: Katie Manning, Sep 29, 2015
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    • "Dental modification, also known as dental art or dental decoration, was practiced in many parts of the world including Africa, Oceania, East Asia and the Americas (see Milner & Larsen, 1991 for a review). The earliest securely dated occurrence of intentional dental modification has been recorded in Africa and dates back to around 4500 years BP (Finucane et al., 2008). "
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    ABSTRACT: Dental modification was widely practiced in sub-Saharan Africa as a form of cultural expression, and during the era of the transatlantic slave trade, it was regularly identified in enslaved Africans who were transported to the Americas. Here, we report three new cases of African types of dental modification from the Caribbean island of Saint Martin that were recently encountered during construction activities in the Zoutsteeg area of Philipsburg, the capital of the Dutch half of the island. The artifacts associated with the burials indicate that they date to the late 17th century, prior to the foundation of the town of Philipsburg in 1735. The dental evidence further suggests that the three individuals were born in Africa, as opposed to the Americas. This could be confirmed by tooth enamel strontium isotope measurements which yielded values that are inconsistent with an origin in the Caribbean but consistent with an origin in Africa. Unfortunately, neither the dental patterns nor the strontium isotope values allow us to determine their specific origins in Africa. However, both the methods used to modify the teeth and the isotope ratios suggest that the ‘Zoutsteeg Three’ originated in different parts of Africa. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
    International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 08/2014; DOI:10.1002/oa.2253 · 0.95 Impact Factor
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    • "Typological analyses places the dental modifications of PLA-159 among the ones reported for African groups (Haour and Pearson, 2005; Tiesler, 2002). Primarily in western, central, and southern Africa, intentional dental modification of the anterior teeth in some cases consists of filing one or both interproximal sides, thereby destroying the incisal axis (Finucane et al., 2008; Gould et al., 1984; Jones, 1992; Reichart et al., 2007). This is similar to the modifications observed in African individuals resettled in the Americas during the period of colonization (Tiesler, 2002; Price et al., 2006) and in Iberian Peninsula during 13th to 15th centuries A.D. (Gonzalo et al., 2001). "
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    ABSTRACT: Excavations at Plaza del Castillo in Pamplona (northern Spain) revealed a large Islamic necropolis dating to the eighth century A.D., including the skeleton of an adult female showing intentional dental modification (PLA-159). While the practice of dental decoration was virtually absent in Medieval Spain, it is common in Africa and suggests that this individual was born in Africa and brought to Spain later in life. The historically documented occupation of Pamplona by Muslim groups from northern Africa between ca. 715 and 799 A.D. also supports an African origin. As an additional line of evidence, we investigated the geographic origins of two individuals from the cemetery, including PLA-159, via radiogenic strontium and stable oxygen isotope analyses on enamel hydroxyapatite. The human isotopic signatures were measured following established methodologies and compared to the local geochemical composition and modern precipitation values. The data analysis showed a non-local isotopic signature for both individuals, suggesting that they moved to Pamplona following childhood, probably from northern Africa, during the Islamization of the city. Stable carbon isotope analysis revealed a diet heavily based on C3 terrestrial plants. Overall, this preliminary data set exemplifies the use of biogeochemistry as an analytical tool, and provides unique insight about the diffusion of Muslim groups into the Early Medieval Iberian Peninsula.
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    ABSTRACT: Paleoodontological research has proven that some form of cosmetic dentistry existed in ancient times. Intentional dental mutilation, dental decoration and modifications on anterior teeth have been widespread occurrences in many cultures. The fact that there are various names for these phenomena indicates different interpretations of data gained from research into this type of intervention into human dentition. Although archaeological specimens of modified teeth are usually isolated and damaged, they broaden our knowledge of ancient nations and human behaviour in the past. This paper describes examples of such intervention from Southeast Asia, Africa, pre-Columbian America and Europe, as well as Phoenician and Etruscan dental art. It is interesting that different civilisations with no mutual contact and very distinct cultures have developed such similar customs. This could be considered evidence that the sense of and need for beauty lies deep within human nature.
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