Neolithic skulls excavated recently in western Pakistan have been found to have holes drilled into their molars. This evidence for the first time highlights that Dentistry may have been practiced in the region as early as 7,000 BC.
According to the British journal Nature, at least nine people living in a Neolithic village in Mehrgarh, near the Bolan river in Balochistan, had holes drilled into their molars and appeared to have survived the procedure, the Daily Times said.
The findings push back the practice of dentistry by 4,000 years. The earliest known evidence of dental work was a drilled molar found in a Neolithic graveyard in Denmark dating from about 3,000 BC. The Pakistani graves are from about 7,000 BC.
The drilled molars, 11 in all, come from a sample of 300 individuals buried in graves at the Mehrgarh site, said to be the oldest Stone Age complex in the Indus River valley.
A French team began the excavation of 300 individuals in the 1980s. International groups followed until 2001, when it became too dangerous to work in Balochistan.
None of the individuals with drilled teeth appear to have come from a special tomb or sanctuary, indicating that the oral care they received was available to all, says a report in the International Herald Tribune, quoting the British journal.
According to Kansas University's Prof David W. Frayer, 'This is certainly the first case of drilling a person's teeth. But even more significant, this practice lasted some 1,500 years and was a tradition at this site. It wasn't just a sporadic event.'
All nine of the Mehrgarh patients were adults, ranging in age from about 20 to over 40 - four men, two women and three whose sex could not be determined. Most of the dental work was done on the chewing surfaces of their molars, in both the upper and lower jaws, probably using a flint point attached to a bow that made a Stone Age version of a high-speed drill, the researchers said.