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Keywords:

  • Tooth wear;
  • Toothpicks

Abstract

Gross and microscopic examination of the Krapina Neanderthal dental remains reveals the presence of artificial grooves along the cemento-enamel junction of 14 teeth representing ten different individuals. The grooves display distinct morphological features including their consistent location (primarily on the mesial and/or distal root walls), their troughlike appearance, striations and/or polishing in the channel, and the ridges of reactive cementum bordering the groove. These grooves occur only on erupted, permanent teeth, and except for a single occurence on a lower 12, all are located on mandibular or maxillary P4-M3. The morphological nature of the grooves is distinct and has been used to distinguish these grooves from root caries and other pathological or natural causes. Based on the close resemblance between artificial grooves at Krapina and those which have been attributed to toothpick use in other fossil and recent populations, we argue the Krapina Neanderthals were habitually probing the interproximal dental spaces with tools.