“Mummy with Mouthful of Cavities Discovered”

As I searched the web about different ancient Egyptian medical techniques, I stumbled upon this article from Discovery News.

The individual that was discovered lived about 2,100 years ago. Instead of dying of old age, this individual most likely “succumbed to a sinus infection caused by a mouthful of cavities and other tooth ailments, according to new research on the man’s odd dental filling.”

The amount of cavities and abscesses suggest that this individual suffered from a severe infection that was possible deadly. The ancient Egyptian dentists attempted to help this individual heal by “using a piece of linen, perhaps dipped in a medicine such as fig juice or cedar oil, the expert created a form of “packing” in the young man’s biggest and perhaps most painful cavity, located on the left side of his jaw between the first and second molars.”

The packing that the dentists used on the individual was placed there to prevent food entering the cavities, and the medicine that the linen was soaked in was used to lighten the individuals pain.

The cause of death for this individual is unknown, but the sinus infection that resulted from the cavities is a likely cause.

“To figure out the mummy’s story, researchers led by Andrew Wade, then at the University of Western Ontario, used new high-resolution CT scans of his teeth and body, reporting their dental-packing discovery recently in the International Journal of Paleopathology. Researchers said this is the first known case of such packing treatment done on an ancient Egyptian. Unlike a modern-day dental filling, this one didn’t aim to stabilize the tooth.”

The dental techniques are very different between the ancient Egyptians and modern-day dentists. Something that I found interesting from this article was the statement that modern-day dentists would also have difficulties with dealing with this individuals severe cavities.

What does everyone else think about how this individual died?

1 thought on ““Mummy with Mouthful of Cavities Discovered”

  1. Cavities and abscesses are not uncommon pathological conditions to see in archaeological remains. The fact that these individuals did not have the same dental care from professionals with the modern treatments and medications that we are accustomed to is a major reason why these pathologies are so common. There are also vast differences in our modern diet and our drinking water which account for additional advantages we have.
    Maxillary abscesses could spread to the maxillary sinus and cause a sinus infection, but when physical anthropologists see indications of maxillary sinusitis it is generally a chronic condition. I would also assume that this infection would have to spread to the individual’s blood or into the brain and spinal cord to cause death. I was surprised that Discovery did not indicate that in the article you linked to. It would be interesting to know what the prevalence of carious lesions and abscesses were for this time period and region keeping in mind that consideration of the status of this individual would also need to be considered. It was likely that the high status of the mummy would give him access to a different type of diet than other people who were of lower status. In general, determining a cause of death is not something that physical anthropologists are trained to do.

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