19 March 2009

A jaded smile


At the height of Mayan civilization, body modification included a variety of alterations of the teeth. Teeth were sharpened to points, or into the letter "T" to represent the wind-glyph, and green jade was inlaid to "purify breath or express elegant speech." Other minerals inserted into teeth included iron pyrites, hematite, turquoise, quartz, serpentine, and cinnabar.

Holes in the teeth were created by spinning a drill with a bow (as in firestarting), and using powdered quartz as an abrasive. Modified dentition was always in the visible parts of the mouth for display; there is no evidence of restorative dental work for functional purposes.

(photo credit here)

8 comments:

  1. FYI... Mick Jagger has a diamond embedded in one of his teeth.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcbuyeP-Ztg

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  2. The "green jade was inlaid" link is super neato. Apparently Mayan society was even more fashion-conscious than ours! Who would have thought?

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  3. Was this is Guatemala, Mexico, or Belize???

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  4. There's a link in the post for "photo credit." If you click there, you will see the source of the specimen: "This is on display at the Jade Museum in Antigua, Guatemala."

    The specimen location doesn't define the source; it may have been on loan from elsewhere, but that's as good as I can do.

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  5. The nerd in me feels compelled to note that one of the teeth (the one on the far right placed higher than the other) is actually glued in the wrong spot. They are both central incisors, and would have been a symmetrical pair.

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  6. Nerds are quite welcome; there are lots of them from various art and science disciplines lurking on this blog.

    Is there a way to know that it's a misplaced incisor rather than a maxillary canine?

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  7. Yes. The root and crown morphology is very distinct between a maxillary canine and incisor. For instance, you would expect the labial surface (surface facing the lips) of the crown to express a more distinct curvature in a canine than with an incisor.

    Also, the root dosent actually fit within the socket. The bone is broken a bit but if you look close you can see a gap between the apex of the root and the socket.

    Mis-glued teeth is not an uncommon occurrence when dealing with human remains in museum collections.

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  8. I'll vouch for wilma, it's a central. I'm a dentist and I know what teeth look like cause I stare at em every friggen day.

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