Dental disease at ancient Mendes (Tell er-Rub'a) Egypt

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  • Extensive excavations at Tell er-Rubca (ancient Mendes) have documented aspects of the city's political and cultic significance and its development over several millennia, but much less is known about the inhabitants of the city themselves. This paper presents an analysis of dental health as exhibited by human remains recovered from the site by the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University and the University of Alberta. Permanent teeth from 69 individuals were examined for evidence of infectious dental disease (caries and periapical abscesses), calculus, antemortem tooth loss, and the severity of occlusal tooth wear. One-third of the individuals displayed evidence of carious lesions (cavities), although most affected individuals had only one affected tooth. More females had carious lesions than did males, a difference that is not statistically significant. Seventeen per cent of those individuals with associated jawbone fragments show evidence of periapical abscess formation (a not uncommon sequel to a carious lesion), although no sex difference was observed. The frequencies of caries and abscesses in this sample are consistent with the consumption of a high carbohydrate diet. More than two-thirds of the adults are affected by supra-gingival calculus, which is sometimes referred to as tartar. In this sample, calculus is correlated with alveolar resorption, the latter condition a bony response to periodontitis. Both abscessing and alveolar resorption are implicated in the antemortem loss of teeth. Tooth wear is pronounced, with sex differences between middle-aged males and females identified. Despite difficulties of interpretation caused by small sample sizes and preservation issues, the results of this analysis are consistent with other published reports of dental palaeopathology among ancient Egyptians. In essence, molar crown wear, particularly among older individuals, tends to be pronounced and the pattern of dental disease is consistent with a diet high in carbohydrates that likely included bread and naturally sweet and sticky foods such as dried fruits and honey.

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    Research Material
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    Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 International