Human teeth as jewelry in Turkey 8,500 years ago

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AT a prehistoric archaeological site in Turkey, researchers have discovered two 8,500-year-old human teeth, which had been used as pendants in a necklace or bracelet. Researchers have never documented this practice before in the prehistoric Near East, and the rarity of the find suggests that the human teeth were imbued with profound symbolic meaning for the people who wore them.

During excavations at the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük in Turkey between 2013 and 2015, researchers found three 8,500-yearold-teeth that appeared to have been intentionally drilled to be worn as beads in a necklace or bracelet. Subsequent macroscopic, microscopic and radiographic analyses confirmed that two of the teeth had indeed been used as beads or pendants, researchers conclude in a newly published article in Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.

“Not only had the two teeth been drilled with a conically shaped microdrill similar to those used for creating the vast amounts of beads from animal bone and stone that we have found at the site, but they also showed signs of wear corresponding to extensive use as ornaments in a necklace or bracelet,” University of Copenhagen archaeologist and first author of the article Scott Haddow said.

He added: “The evidence suggests that the two teeth pendants were probably extracted from two mature individuals post-mortem. The wear on the teeth’s chewing surfaces indicates that the individuals would have been between 3050 years old. And since neither tooth seems to have been diseased-which would likely have caused the tooth to fall out during life, the most likely scenario is that both teeth were taken from skulls at the site.”