Lucca (Italie): archaeologists find 'world's oldest dentures'
The dentures. Photo: University of Pisa
Stumbling across someone else's used dentures might not normally be a cause for celebration, but a group of archaeologists were delighted with the discovery in Lucca this week.
The team, made up of paleopathologists (scientists specializing in the study of historical diseases) from the university of Pisa, discovered a set of centuries-old dentures in an ancient family tomb.
The scientists believe the device dates back to between the late 14th and early 17th century, making them the oldest known set in existence. The Etruscans and Romans are known to have made dentures out of human and animal teeth as early as 7BC.
One member of the team, Dr Simona Minozzi, said: "Although there are descriptions of similar objects in texts from the period, there is no known archaeological evidence. The dentures found in the tomb are the first example of dentures from this historical period, and as such are a valuable addition to the history of dentistry."
The set, pictured above, is made up of five teeth - canines and incisors - covered in a layer of metal. The archaeologists believe the teeth originally belonged to different people, and were connected to each other and the wearer's lower gums with a strip of gold.
A scan revealed that the metal coating on the teeth was made up mostly of gold, with silver and metal also used, and a layer of tartar on the surface shows that the dentures were worn for a long period.
The find was unearthed in a tomb belonging to the ancient Giunigi family in Lucca, where the scientists have been studying the remains of more than 200 skeletons buried in a chapel of the San Francesco convent.