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February 12, 2018 / philosophermouseofthehedge

Biting Off Time

Move over, and 23andMe.

Tongues constantly flap boasting of superiority, but teeth actually grind out the tale. Over the long term – like millions of years.

wisdom tooth xray. (PD, released by Pidalka44/

Misdirected wisdom. (PD/

Remember in college trying to decide whether to study dentistry, CSI, or archeology? Some managed to do them all.

Teeth, it turns out, are what speak to specialized archeologists/anthropologists about human development, ancient human migrations, and genetic connections between people today.

Shara Bailey, Associate Professor of Anthropology at New York University, is one of those sleuths poking around ancient mouths searching for answers.

Do the number of lumpy bumps on your molars hold clues to your genetic family group?

Feel deep ridges behind your front teeth? Possibly Native American ancestors.

Count it up: trees and teeth have something in common: growth rings.

6 min video “The topography of teeth” (SciTech Now)

One interesting observation by Bailey: There were no Neanderthal dentists, yet the ancient teeth are solid, beautiful, and perfect. But once life shifted from a hunting and gathering existence to agricultural societies, tooth conditions went straight down hill with cavities, terrible condition, and generally looking bad.

Not sure what to think about that.

Despite the age, teeth are always in style.

Cartoon of three laughing dinosaurs. 1873. St.Nicholas by M.Dodge (, artist life/

Biting laughter. (USPD/

If communication starts with teeth, then some ancient choppers should start talking.

James Chatters, an anthropologist and forensic consultant who studied a teenage girl’s skull and teeth (dating from 13,000 years ago found in Central America’s Yucatán Peninsula), and University of Alaska Fairbanks’ anthropologist Ben Potter who examined the bones and genes from an 11,500-year-old  Alaskan infant recently both found much to chew over when pondering how these youngsters got to where they lived, and how they were/are connected genetically to others.

“First Face of America explores how humans reached the New World.” Here’s a review of the NOVA show by Science News.

A bit of skepticism detected? (Good science should always be questioning – especially itself…the scientific method and all)

Another interesting article about the recently discovered Alaska infants: “Terminal Pleistocene Alaskan genome reveals first founding population of Native Americans” – article here. (Offered free by Springer Nature Shareit).

Of course even people long in the tooth are still trying to figure out how the Clovis culture, Solutreans, the Mal’ta, Kennewick Man, and scores of others mesh.

Answers as scarce as hen’s teeth.

Molly Malamute grins with gleaming humor at me saying “What do you think? Our ancestors may have actually known each other.”

Would give my eye teeth to know.

Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge.







  1. shoreacres / Feb 12 2018 7:05 am

    Well, now. This post certainly offers some content to chew on.


  2. Kate Crimmins / Feb 12 2018 7:05 am

    I sent spit to find out my ancestors. I should have send a tooth along with it. There is no possible way I have Neanderthal blood. Not with my teeth which have their own 401(k) along with a mortgage. Mom told me to never let anyone pull one. Who knew keeping them was so expensive! At least you can put your teeth into this post!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Jeanne / Feb 12 2018 7:17 am

    Reblogged this on borderline crossing and commented:
    The philosopher mouse always a mouthful, mind full of knowledge and ancedotes!!! Do indulge…


  4. Littlesundog / Feb 12 2018 7:52 am

    I am not surprised about the decline of dental health, nor the increase in many body health issues since the start of the agricultural revolution. We are now seeing the long-term results of poor eating habits over the last four or five decades (or more), and the continuation of poor eating from past generations believing the lies of clever marketing. We know how to stop it, but it’s too much work to give up the convenience and fast foods. Besides, the USDA, FDA, and various boards and associations (beef industry, dairy council, etc.), not to mention the medical industry and pharmaceutical companies are reaping big rewards for keeping us in bad eating habits and lifestyles. I have had little trouble with my teeth over my lifetime. Mine were just crooked. I had them straightened 27 years ago, which probably caused the monster headaches I’ve suffered ever since. Maybe there was a reason they were that way?


  5. Carrie Rubin / Feb 12 2018 3:13 pm

    I suspect as soon as sugar was discovered, tooth decay started occurring. Or at least when sugar started being used for so many things. Sigh.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 12 2018 6:45 pm

      Ah, finally something that makes sense. Crops of sugar cane, sweet potatoes, all sorts of fruits and veggies much more constant in the diet (along with tended bee hives and maple syrup from trees?). Maybe less walking/running – and more safe sleeping.
      The trouble with the human puzzle is we overlook some pieces perhaps.
      Thanks for taking a moment to clocking in with some insight.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. sustainabilitea / Feb 12 2018 7:43 pm

    I’m all about teeth, too. 🙂



  7. Anne Mehrling / Feb 12 2018 8:34 pm

    Love your puns!


  8. RKLikesReeses / Feb 13 2018 4:43 am

    This is fascinating!!
    Eating breakfast while reading, wondering what stories my dental-darlings would tell.


  9. Ally Bean / Feb 13 2018 8:11 am

    Biting into this topic, I’d like to say that I believe the reason the hunter and gatherers’ had good teeth is that they were nomadic, and as such didn’t have to deal with the daily lunacy of other people in a small town. Therefore, they didn’t grind their teeth as much, leading to healthier teeth. A theory.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 13 2018 8:27 am

      Excellent hypothesis! So much less gnashing of teeth if you can just pick up your stuff and walk away from the crazies. Thanks for digging up that idea

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Curt Mekemson / Feb 13 2018 10:53 am

    Then there was the ancient skull that had been cleaved all the way down to the jaw. It appears to have been a mistake. The archeologist claimed it was axe-i-dental.
    And why is it that every time a new dentist looks in my mouth, he/she immediately begins planning an expensive vacation? –Curt


  11. Spinster / Feb 13 2018 3:28 pm

    What a cool discovery. Soothes my inner nerd. Saving this post now. Thanks for sharing.


  12. LordBeariOfBow / Feb 15 2018 10:21 pm

    I miss mine, 😥


  13. Jay E. / Feb 17 2018 9:06 am

    I have awful teeth; they probably would have much to say.


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