Short communication: Two additional Egyptian Neolithic burials exhibiting unusual mortuary treatment of teeth



In a prior report we described human remains from the Neolithic cemetery at Gebel Ramlah, Egypt, with evidence of purposeful tooth replacement. Two crania, which were apparently disturbed by later burials, were found to contain several teeth that had been incorrectly reinserted into the jaws. Such treatment was suggested to be unique. Recent work at the site revealed a similarly unusual find. Two adult male skeletons, evidently displaced in antiquity, also had several teeth loosened from their jaws; however, instead of attempting to reinsert them, the Neolithic gravedigger(s) placed the teeth into the right orbit of one cranium and the nasal aperture of the other. Such placement, as well as the general state of these burials, ruled out subsequent looting or taphonomic factors as causative agents. We previously speculated that tooth replacement represented an attention to detail while attempting to re-inter the remains in as complete a state as possible. This assumption may hold true for the present situation, but there are other plausible interpretations; for example, it might indicate animosity toward the individuals, an attempt at humour, or perhaps something less purposeful (e.g. they provided convenient receptacles). Whichever the case, the cemetery continues to yield heretofore unknown, and valuable, information about mortuary and other data relating to these prehistoric desert peoples. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.