I’ve long been fascinated with all-things Egyptian. From the obvious (the great Pyramids and the Book of the Dead) to the less well-known (mummified cats) the Valley of the Kings continues to amaze me. So when I read a recent article about Egyptian grave-robbers who had accidentally stumbled upon the tomb of the Pharaoh’s DENTIST; naturally my curiosity was piqued.
Egyptian dentistry. Talk about being ahead of your time. Makes perfect sense: if you’re readying yourself for the afterlife, you want a nice smile to make the package complete.
But first a little history. According to an article in Archeology.com, after a group of small-time grave-robbers was apprehended in a work-in-progress, archeologists decided to keep digging where they left off. Buried 10 meters under the sand, they found a burial complex for three dentists who worked in the service of the pharaoh during Egypt’s Old Kingdom. According to the article, the archeologists were able to identify the profession of the deceased as dentists by the signatory tooth under each hieroglyphic title on the tomb walls. The discovery dates the practice of dental hygiene in ancient Egypt back almost 5,000 years.
Think about it: dentistry in the United didn’t even begin to hit its stride until the xxxx, but in ancient Egypt, they were already installing rudimentary braces to keep teeth straight. Egypt’s director of antiquities — Zahi Hawass – was quoted as saying in the xxxxx that this the latest discovery is important “…not only because it offers greater proof that dentistry was practiced in pharaonic times, but that it also indicates the respect the king had for the royal dentist…”
The site ancienthistory.about.com takes the discovery one step further: judging from existing archaeological evidence the dentistry of antiquity can be divided into three groups:
– GroupI would seem to consist of the therapeutic or purely medical methods of combating dental affections.
– GroupII combines mechanical means of treatment with the earlier and purely medical treatments of Group I. In other words – whatever crudely made prosthesis implemented to keep the teeth straight.
– And finally GroupIII: the highest stage of development reached in ancient dentistry: a definite improvement over Groups I and II, since it introduces a true dental prosthesis, that is, the art of applying artificial substitutes for lost dental organs.
Antiquities Inspector Ashraf Mohi El Din was part of the team that uncovered the dentists’ tombs, as well as the curse on the outside door warning them not to enter. El Din pointed out in History.about.com that the dentist’s tomb was outfitted with a crocodile and the snake, and the phrase – “RIF ICH ER CHEY HER SHUT MOO,” which basically says “…If you are going to enter my tomb, the crocodile will attack you and the snake with attack you…”
Wouldn’t surprise if there’s not some fine print about getting a toothache as well.
At this early stage, the full description of Egyptian dentistry is still being written. Still to be found are dental instruments like picks and drills or even false teeth.
According to Phoenicia.org, many researchers feel that dentistry didn’t really begin to hit its stride until dental practices were embraced by the Etruscans — who were all but obsessed with their looks and beauty. The Etruscans may have learned the principals of dentistry from the Egyptians and then evolved the practice to fit their own needs.
In the meantime, add dentistry to the list of accomplishments of the forward-thinking Egyptians. Sure they were big on…well big things like the pyramids. But they were just as keen apparently on the benefits of a healthy smile.