The Krapina Neanderthals Used Toothpicks


Bulletin of the International Association for Paleodontology recently published discovery of multiple toothpick grooves on 130,000 year old Krapina Neanderthal teeth. David Frayer, professor emeritus of Anthropology at University of Kansas, who published the 2015 PLoS ONE study about a set of eagle talons jewelry is one of the study authors.

Three views of the four articulated teeth making up KDP 20. a. occlusal view showing lingually placedmesial interproximal wear facet on P4 (arrow) and buccal wear on M3; b. lingual view showing a mesiallyplaced interproximal wear facet on P4 (arrow), chips from lingual faces of all teeth and rotated, partiallyimpacted M3; c. buccal view showing rotated buccal face of M3 (arrow) and hypercementosis on its root. Credit: David Frayer, University of Kansas

The teeth and all the Krapina Neanderthal fossils were discovered between 1899-1905. The team re-examined the teeth with a light microscope to document occlusal wear, toothpick groove formation, dentin scratches, and ante mortem, lingual enamel fractures. They found the premolar and M3 molar were pushed out of their normal positions. Associated with that, they found six toothpick grooves among those two teeth and the two molars further behind them.

Toothpick grooves, irregular interproximal facets and other anomalies on the left P4. a. mesial facewith a small toothpick groove on the mesial-lingual edge. Above it is a very lingually positioned interproximalwear facet (arrow); b. distal surface with a deep toothpick groove and an interproximal wear facet that has anabnormal lingual location (arrow); c. chips from the occlusal/lingual margin; d. probing striations on themesial/buccal facet. Credit: David Frayer, University of Kansas

While this isn’t as compelling evidence of the 13,000 year old fillings we shared news of in April, this evidence of toothpick use for dental pathology does further fit into a pattern of a Neanderthal being able to modify its personal environment by using tools, in addition to the use of eagle talon jewelry from the same site.