New Archaeological Discoveries

The remains of hemp were found in the teeth of skeletons buried in a Bronze Age grave near Italy’s city of Naples.

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Bronze Age grave Two upper lateral incisor teeth of female origin from Gricignano d’Aversa. A: Sperduti et al. 2018 / American Physical Anthropology Review

A new analysis of thousands of teeth from antique skeletons buried in an area near Italy, Naples revealed that people used not only their hands but also their mouths when doing possible work involving the use of hemp rope and fabric.

Of course, we also use our teeth for various tasks such as opening bottles, holding pieces of paper and even smoking pipes, as well as nutritional advice. In doing so, we take into consideration the possibility of breaking our teeth, and we open microscopic scratches and grooves on the surface of the dental miniature. Since the teeth can not renew themselves like bones, these minor injuries accompany us throughout our lives.

For archaeologists, the dental use model of actions outside of chewing is called AIDM (activity-dependent dental modification) and can provide cultural information about an individual’s life, diet and occupation. Archaeologists who have been in the study of these models for many years have come across remarkable findings pointing to the production of antiquities in the Netherlands and other prehistoric human populations.

In a study published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, a group led by Italian and American researchers led by the Alessandra Sperduit at the Roman Civilization Museum, Gricignano d ‘Ancient Bronze Age (2500-1800 BC) cemetery just north of Naples He reported his analysis of more than 3,000 teeth taken from more than 200 people buried in ‘Aversa.’

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A man shows hemp fibers in Arc-Les-Gray near Dijon, France. C: Romain Lafabregue / AFP / Getty Images

Sperduti and his colleagues carefully examined the teeth using both an eye and a scanning electron microscope. In the examinations, 28 women and 1 man were found to have cavities near the chewing surface of their teeth, and no children under 15 had any evidence of AIDM.

It is stated that the shape of the cavities is “compatible with the small-diameter yarn production or weaving preparation theory”. According to the claim, in this production or preparation process, the women were attracted repeatedly by their upper cutter and canine teeth. This striking difference between men and women regarding the number of hollows reveals that there is an obvious gender difference in spinning.

The researchers also examined microscopic food residues in 19 skeletal teeth embedded in the grave. Dental calcular images obtained by scanning electron microscopy gave a wide variety of results, but it was stated that “the most interesting of these” was “encountering three pieces of fibers in microscopic size in two females”. It was reported that the fiber parts were hemp (Cannabis sp.) And perfectly matched with the width of the tooth cavities.

Since the fiber is not well preserved, how the production of hemp is made in ancient Italy has not been archaeologically certain, but it is well known how it was in Roman times. In Gricignano d’Aversa, hemp was also found on a metal knife in the grave of an adult man. This hemp fabric is likely to be the remains of a sheath. The discovery of hemp in both the dental calculus and the grave within the same area draws attention to the importance of fabric and production in the Bronze Age Southern Italy.

According to the results of the work of Sperduti and his colleagues, dental calculus analysis reveals that this biological material contains rich resources that document non-nutritional habits.

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