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INTRODUCTION

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Simon Hillson
Affiliation:
University College London
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Summary

Teeth have the great archaeological advantage of being constructed from remarkably tough materials, which can survive a century and more in the harsh environment of the mouth. They also survive in a very wide range of archaeological sites and conditions of burial. Teeth of large animals are part of the carcass which is thrown away early in the butchery process, and so become incorporated quickly into rubbish deposits. They are readily recognised during excavation and routinely recovered in a similar way to artefacts. Often, they are amongst the most numerous finds. At large town sites in Britain, for instance, the number of identifiable bone and tooth fragments frequently exceeds the total of recognisable sherds of pottery.

The importance of recovering such material from excavations has long been recognised. In his Primeval Antiquities of Denmark (1849), J. J. A. Worsaae asserted firmly that all objects from archaeological sites, including animal bones, should be preserved. As archaeology developed, finds of the remains of extinct mammals alongside human bones and artefacts came to provide crucial evidence for the antiquity of man. William Pengelly's famous excavations of Brixham Cave in 1858–9 revealed a deposit containing flint tools and extinct animal bones that was sealed by a thick layer of stalagmite, also containing remains of extinct animals (Daniel, 1978).

Most teeth from mammals larger than a cat can be recognised when trowelling on an archaeological site, or quickly recovered by sieving/screening at a coarse mesh (1 cm).

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Teeth , pp. 1 - 6
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2005

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  • INTRODUCTION
  • Simon Hillson, University College London
  • Book: Teeth
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511614477.002
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  • INTRODUCTION
  • Simon Hillson, University College London
  • Book: Teeth
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511614477.002
Available formats
×

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

  • INTRODUCTION
  • Simon Hillson, University College London
  • Book: Teeth
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511614477.002
Available formats
×