Dislodged teeth in four intact child mummies from Graeco/Roman Egypt (332 BCE – c. 395 CE) – child abuse, accident or careless embalmers?

Janet Davey, Pamela J. G. Craig, Olaf. H. Drummer

Abstract


In a computerised tomographic (CT) scanning and x-ray imaging of four ancient Egyptian Graeco/Roman child mummies, it was observed that deciduous teeth had been dislodged and that the cervical spines were flexed. The objective of this study was to determine whether the cause of the tooth loss and spinal flexion were linked or whether they related to ante-mortem accident or abuse.

Three mummies were examined using high speed helical CT scanners and the fourth mummy was examined using x-ray film. The images were loaded into an advanced visualisation workstation for further examination and to provide accurate data to identify exfoliated teeth and the flexion of the cervical spine.

The age range of the children was approximately eighteen months to six years. The study showed that in two cases the dislodged teeth were within the oral cavity and in the third case the dislodged teeth were found close to empty sockets. In the fourth mummy two upper teeth were dislodged but could not be identified in the oral cavity due to the lack of clarity in the x-ray films.

In all cases natural exfoliation or dental extraction as a cause of tooth loss was rejected due to the age of each child and identification of dislodged teeth which lacked evidence of root resorption. The reason for the dislodgement of teeth appeared to be due rough post-mortem handling by embalmers when grasping the mandible to flex the cervical spine and manipulate the head towards the chest. Ante-mortem accident, child abuse, periodontal disease or extractions were rejected as the cause of tooth loss.


Keywords


mummies; embalming; ancient Egypt; CT

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.12697/poa.2014.23.1.02

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ISSN 1406-0140 (print)
ISSN 1736-7646 (online)
Journal DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.12697/issn1406-0140