Forbes recently reported that archeologists excavating ancient skeletons buried at a site near Naples, Italy had made an interesting discovery. It appears that the ancient people used their teeth as tools to process hemp into string and fabric.
When used as tools, teeth develop microscopic grooves which last a lifetime. Grooves can reveal cultural information about a person’s life, diet, occupation, and more.
In a paper published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology a group of Italian and American researchers led by Alessandra Sperduti of the Museo delle Civiltà in Rome analyzed the remains of more than 3,000 teeth from over 200 people buried in an Early Bronze Age (2500-1800 B.C.) cemetery at the site of Gricignano d’Aversa just north of Naples.
According to the report, the groove patterns of some of the female skeletons were «consistent with the hypothesis of yarn production —or weaving preparation —of small-diameter threads,» and showed they were repeatedly pulled across the fronts and sides of the skeletons’ upper incisors and canines.
«The most interesting find is the evidence of three micro-fragments of fibers in two female individuals,» wrote the researchers. Those fibers appear to be either cannabis or hemp.
Excavators also found hemp attached to a metal blade in the tomb of an adult male, which is likely the remains of a fabric knife sheath. The researchers concluded that «as more work is done analyzing dental calculus in a variety of humans, it is apparent that this biological material holds rich resources documenting non-dietary habits.»
By Sean McCaughan
SEP 03, 2018