The discolouration of human teeth from archaeological contexts: elemental analysis of a black tooth from a Roman cranium recovered from the River Witham, Lincoln, UK

Brown, Emma L. and Dixon, Ronald A. and Birkett, Jason W. (2014) The discolouration of human teeth from archaeological contexts: elemental analysis of a black tooth from a Roman cranium recovered from the River Witham, Lincoln, UK. Journal of Anthropology, 2014 . pp. 859153-7. ISSN 2090-4045

Full content URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2014/859153

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Abstract

A human cranium was recovered from the River Witham, Lincoln, UK, at Stamp End Lock during a police operation in 2002. Although extensive trauma was noted, the skull was not of forensic interest since radiocarbon dating revealed that the individual had lived during the Roman occupation of Lincoln, almost 2,000 years ago. The skull had unusual black “metallic” staining on the occlusal surfaces of the teeth. As this kind of staining is relatively uncommon, it was investigated to determine the possible cause. An individual tooth was subjected to two elemental analyses: inductively coupled plasma-atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES) and scanning electron microscopy-energy dispersive X-ray analysis (SEM-EDX). A small sample  of modern teeth was also analysed for comparison to determine “normal” ranges of certain elements. Analysis of the ancient tooth shows very high levels of manganese (275 µg/g) and iron (1540 µg/g) compared to modern teeth values (1.90 µg/g Mn and 40.81 µg/g Fe). These results were consistent with the black staining arising from iron and manganese infiltrating bone and dental tissue from the depositional environment, and not a consequence of diet, pathological process or cultural practices.

Keywords:oaopen, Archaeology, NotOAChecked
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V400 Archaeology
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
ID Code:15436
Deposited On:09 Oct 2014 23:03

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