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Dental Modification in Ancient Panama

The practice of tooth-filing as an art form and means of self-expression was common in some ancient societies around the world, although very few people do it today. One of the few remaining groups who do so are the Ngäbe of western Panama. However, there is a curious lack of modified teeth from Pre-Columbian archaeological sites in Panama, suggesting the practice began later. By studying hundreds of human burials from before and after the Spanish arrival in Panama over 500 years ago, bioarchaeologist Nicole Smith-Guzmán and colleagues from the ArtEmpire project have found evidence that tooth filing was a practice introduced from African slaves brought to Panama Viejo during the Colonial period.

To read more on this story, see: An ‘Oral’ History: Archaeologists Search for the Origin of Dental Modification in Panama

Para leer más del estudio en español, visite: Historia ‘oral’: Arqueólogos buscan el origen de la modificación dental en Panamá

The original article can be found here (and it’s open access!):

Nicole E. Smith-Guzmán, Javier Rivera-Sandoval, Corina Knipper, Ginés Alberto Sánchez Arias, 2020. Intentional dental modification in Panamá: New support for a late introduction of African origin. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 60:101226.