At a prehistoric archaeological site in Turkey, researchers have discovered two 8,500-year-old human teeth, which had been used as pendants in a necklace or bracelet. This is reported as the first evidence of this practice in the Near East. Earlier evidence of the practice has been found at European sites. The researchers from the University of Copenhagen said that the human teeth were imbued with profound symbolic meaning for the people who wore them. The study was, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.
Three 8,500-year-old-teeth were reportedly found during excavations at a site in Catalhoyuk in Turkey between 2013 and 2015 by the researchers, including those from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. They appeared to have been intentionally drilled to be worn as beads in a necklace or bracelet. Later it was confirmed that two of the teeth had indeed been used as beads or pendants. Scott Haddow, University of Copenhagen archaeologist and first author of the study wrote that not only had the two teeth been drilled with a conically shaped microdrill similar to those used for creating the vast amounts of beads from animal bone and stone that we have found at the site, but they also showed signs of wear corresponding to extensive use as ornaments in a necklace or bracelet.
Postmortem reports revealed that the teeth were probably extracted from two mature individuals. Haddow in his research added that the wear on the teeth's chewing surfaces indicated that the individuals would have been between 30-50 years old. And since neither tooth seems to have been diseased-which would likely have caused the tooth to fall out during life. The most likely scenario is that both teeth were taken from skulls at the site, he said.
The research further revealed that it was not common to use human teeth and bone to be modified. The author explained that the rarity of the find makes it very unlikely that these modified human teeth were used solely for aesthetic purposes but rather carried profound symbolic meaning for the people who wore them. There were other pendants made from animal bone/teeth and other materials at the burial site. He assumes that it may have been a deliberate choice not to include items made from human bone and teeth with burials. These human teeth pendants were perhaps related to specific - and rare - ritual taboos, he postulated.