Researchers studying the ruins of Çatalhöyük in central Turkey have found evidence that locals once wore human teeth as jewelry.
A group of archaeologists have discovered three preserved human teeth during an excavation in the Neolithic proto-city, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The teeth date from around 6500 BC and two showed signs of having been ground into a conical shape using a micro-drill, then drilled so that they could be placed on string and used as jewelry.
Researchers believed the teeth were from middle-aged adults and had been removed after death, according to a Forbes contributor report.
“These material choices – and their scarcity overall – suggest a deeper symbolic value,” says Scott D. Haddow, researcher at the University of Copenhagen.
Haddow and his colleagues say this is the first documented case of human teeth being artificially altered by grinding and drilling into decorative objects.
While previous research has shown the use of animal teeth as decorative objects, adult teeth may have special cultural significance among the people of Çatalhöyük.
This summer, another team of researchers documented how dental problems were common in Çatalhöyük, which was inhabited between 7100 BC and 5500 BC.
The local population was made up of sheep herders and lived on a diet rich in grains, resulting in a high prevalence of dental problems.
10 to 13% of adult remains had tooth decay, which researchers attribute to grain-based diets.
At its peak, Çatalhöyük had a population of around 8,000 people, who lived “in very crowded conditions, with rubbish bins and animal enclosures right next to some of their homes,” according to Clark Spencer Larsen, anthropologist at Larsen. ‘Ohio State University.
“So there is a whole host of sanitation issues that could be contributing to the spread of infectious diseases.”
Based on the differences in the bone samples, the researchers suggest that over time, the townspeople were forced to go further outside the town to find pasture, new patches of land. for agriculture and firewood.
With overcrowding and slowly dwindling resources, the population has shown signs of internal conflict.
“We saw an increase in head injuries during the intervening period, when the population was largest and densest,” Larsen said.
“An argument could be made that overcrowding has led to increased stress and conflict within the community.”
When the climate began to warm in the region over the course of several hundred years, the city began to lose population as crop yields and resources became scarce before being finally abandoned in 5950 BC. .
“Çatalhöyük was one of the first proto-urban communities in the world and the residents experienced what happens when you gather many people together in a small area for an extended period of time,” Larsen said.
“It set the stage for where we are today and the challenges we face in city life. “
This article has been adapted from its original source.