| 4 June 2014
2,300-year-old false tooth found in France
Archaeologists believe an iron tooth implant may have been fitted to a young woman in northern France about 2,300 years ago to beautify her corpse. The new find replaced the only tooth lost by the woman, which would have caused her no practical problems but would have been very visible.
Although the Celts were renowned for their craftsmanship in metal and timber, little is known about their medical knowledge before the Romans overran their territories.
The corroded piece of metal is the same size and shape as the other incisors from her upper jaw, and may originally have been improved by a wooden or ivory covering. It was found in a grave at Le Chene, in the Champagne-Ardenne region southeast of Paris, and is the oldest of its kind discovered in Western Europe - 400 years older than one from another grave in France, found in the 1990s at Essonne.
The woman was between 20 and 30 years old when she died, buried in an elaborately constructed and richly furnished timber chamber near the graves of three other women - all originally surrounded by a wooden fenced enclosure. With her were bronze torcs, anklets and bracelets, brooches and belt ornaments, coral and amber necklaces, and an iron currency bar - all signs of wealth 'of a refined and ostentatious elite'.
The burials show all the hallmarks of the Celtic La Tene culture, which flourished across Central and Western Europe at the time.
This was a period when the Celtic Gauls were in contact with the Etruscan civilisation of northern Italy - known for their relative mastery of dentistry during the third century BCE, although the partial dentures inserted into gold bands and fitted onto existing teeth represent a different approach than that seen in third century Gaul. False or replacement teeth have been discovered in skulls from ancient Egypt, including a 5,500-year-old one made of shell, intended to make the body as complete as possible for the afterlife.
Edited from BBC News (27 May 2014), The Guardian (28 May 2014)
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