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Dental morphology, dental health and its social implications

Poznan Archaeological Museum
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  • Cc Archaeology
  • Agricultural Science
  • Biology
  • Design


Introduction Dentists (and doctors) were designated ibHy or swnw (Nunn 1996). The first documented dentist was Hesy-ra in Dynasty III, c. 2650 BC, who was designated as ‘chief of doctors and dentists’ (Roberts and Manchester 1995). This link be- tween dentistry and doctors is important as it demonstrates the inclusive nature of Egyptian bodily health. There is no written evidence for dentistry before the Old Kingdom, and therefore this study assesses dental health in the Predynastic and early Old Kingdom in order to assess the impact upon individual health and the associated social implications. Teeth can be studied to obtain a measure of the health of an individual over their lifetime, and to provide information about genetic ancestry, diet, the oral hygiene and dentistry, the level of biological stress experienced in childhood, the occupation and repeated activities undertaken by the individual, cultural behav- iours, and the subsistence economy of the population. Of these, health and oral hygiene and their links to diet will be considered in this paper. Given the changes in social organisation associated with the formation of a unified state, a linked change in food production and distribution is likely. This social transition is marked by a change from a hunter-gatherer mode of subsist- ence to one increasingly dependent on agriculture, potentially associated with an increase in concentration upon cereal production (Midant-Reynes 2000; Wetter- strom 1993). By the early Predynastic, domesticates included goats, sheep, bovids, Sonia Zakrzewski Dental Morphology, Dental Health and its Social Implications Prehistory of Northeastern Africa New Ideas and Discoveries Studies in African Archaeology 11 Poznań Archaeological Museum 2012 and pigs; this was associated with some hunting, such as of gazelles. Barley and emmer were being cultivated, possibly alongside peas, lentils and vetch. By the early Dynastic period there was the rel- ative abandonment of pastoralism

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