A Color To Sink Your Teeth Into


If you have stuff stuck in your teeth, think about what you might find in teeth that are over 1,000 years old!

This week archaeologists found something rare hidden in the unbrushed teeth of a medieval woman who was buried at a monastery in Germany.  This woman most likely died between 1,000 and 800 years ago, and when the monastery burned during the 14th century all records of the residents’ lives were lost. But when scientists were examining her tartar (a calcified deposit that forms on the teeth) they discovered flecks of the rare and expensive pigment called “ultramarine” that gave them a peek at what her life was like. Ultramarine is made by grinding up lapis lazuli stones that were imported all the way from Afghanistan, and was used to paint beautiful “illuminations” on medieval manuscripts. Based on the pigment in her mouth, she was most likely one of the talented artists illuminating books at the monastery, and would lick her brush to get a point while working on precise details. Scientists are excited to use chemical analysis of tartar on other skeletons to identify other artists and scribes from this time period. What do you think scientists might be able to learn about you from your teeth?

Want to learn more? Visit https://www.sciencenews.org/article/dental-tartar-identify-woman-medieval-book-painter?tgt=nr

Jan. 16, 2019

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