Interventive dental therapy in Ancient Egypt (ca. 2686 BCE – AD 323): a critical review

Sarah Massingham*, Ronika K. Power

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Objective: This paper critically reviews the history of research concerning ancient Egyptian interventive dental therapy between the Old Kingdom – Graeco-Roman Period (c. 2686 BCE–AD 323), concentrating on the published osteological evidence.

Materials: Eight osteological examples reportedly exhibiting markers of interventive dental therapy, including a mandible presenting purported evidence for a drilling procedure for the relief of an abscess; four dental bridges; a maxilla with multiple teeth extracted; and two carious lesion fillings.

Methods: Previous claims are critically reviewed using a qualitative research method involving collecting and critiquing published data, both primary evidence and relevant secondary literature.

Conclusions: Without further scientific analysis, only four specimens can currently be plausibly attributed to ancient Egyptian interventive dental therapy including the Tura el-Asmant Bridge, the enucleation described for a Graeco-Roman child, and two carious lesion fillings identified in the mummified individuals known as the ‘Redpath Mummy’ (RM2718) and ‘Sekhem’ (AIG3343).

Significance: Several enduring historiographical and museological problems within the discourse are identified, revising our understanding of the nature and scope of ancient Egyptian interventive dental therapy based on currently known osteological evidence.

Limitations: This review relies on the published documentation for each osteological example, namely images, which in several cases are poor quality.

Suggestions for Further Research: There is significant opportunity for further scientific analysis of the osteological evidence discussed. In each case, specific potential methods to improve our understanding and interpretation have been identified.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-75
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Paleopathology
Volume38
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022

Keywords

  • Bioarchaeology
  • Dental pathology
  • Medicine
  • Teeth

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