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Frans_Jozef
Friday, July 14th, 2006, 01:03 PM
Study: Viking Teeth Were Groovy


By Rossella Lorenzi

Viking warriors filed deep grooves in their teeth, and they likely had to smile broadly to show them off, according to new finds in four major Viking Age cemeteries in Sweden.


Caroline Arcini of Sweden's National Heritage Board analyzed 557 skeletons of men, women and children from between 800 and 1050 A.D. They discovered that 22 of the men bore deep, horizontal grooves across the upper front teeth.


"The marks are traces of deliberate dental modifications ... they are so well-made that most likely they were filed by a person of great skill," Arcini wrote in the current issue of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.
Traces of teeth mutilation have been found in all parts of the world except Europe, with the practice reaching its peak from 700 to 1400 A.D., during the height of the Viking Age.
The Viking were the first European people to have displayed this custom, perhaps because they picked it up during their travels.


"This discovery is important as it shows that signs of cultural contact may happen between people over vast distances," Arcini told Discovery News.
However, the reason for and the importance of the furrows remain mysteries.


"The only things that the people have in common are that they were men and that majority had died when they were quite young. The filed furrows were made in more or less the same area of the teeth in all individuals," Arcini said.


The marks were cut deep into the enamel and occurred often in pairs or triplets.
"To show their furrows, the individuals would have had to smile quite broadly," Arcini said.
The researcher speculated that the marks could have been some sort of decoration or a badge to indicate class or military rank.
"Maybe they were warriors, although no skeletal injuries have been detected," Arcini said.


Pia Bennike, at the University of Copenhagen's Laboratory of Biological Anthropology, agreed: "They did it on purpose, to mark that they belonged to a special group. Or maybe they were slaves. This is a very unique and interesting find."


One hypothesis is that they could show an individual's ability to resist pain. They could have also represented some kind of achievement.
"Maybe this is the explanation for multiple furrows or deeper ones," Arcini said.


The tools that the Vikings used for handicrafts were made both of iron and stone. An experiment on a medieval tooth showed that with a lot of force and a file of steel, it takes about 20 minutes to cut a mark like the those of the Vikings in the enamel.


"How long it took on a living person is really difficult to know. Even if the filing did not hurt, it most certainly must have been unpleasant," Arcini said.


source (http://dsc.discovery.com/news/briefs/20060123/vikingteeth_arc.html)