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Etruscan Gold Dental Appliances

Evidence for Early “Parting” of Gold in Italy Through the Study of Ancient Pontics

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Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (NAII,volume 117)

Abstract

By 630 BCE Etruscan metallurgists in central Italy had begun to apply their impressive goldworking skills in the production of dental bridges (pontics). The achievement of this technological development began with the fabrication of a hollow gold tooth mounted on a thin band of gold. The band served to anchor this dental appliance to the healthy teeth adjacent to the gap filled by the gold tooth. The original use of these Etruscan appliances was to provide a decorative replacement for one or more maxillary incisors that had been deliberately removed in a cultural process known as dental ablation (or tooth evulsion). Soon after 630 BCE the Etruscan technology for making these replacements shifted to using natural human teeth, often those that had been deliberately removed, or carved ivory examples. These “false” or replacement teeth were mounted in a gold band where they were held in place by various methods. The more common means was to drill and rivet the replacement in place using gold pins. Less commonly a part of the band was formed into a rectangular bezel into which the false or replacement tooth could be set like a jewel.

The purity of the gold used in the fashioning of these appliances has been a question for some time. Gold commonly appears naturally alloyed with silver (electrum), always with less than 2% copper. The process of “parting” these metals is believed to have developed in the area of Lydia in Turkey ca. 560 BCE. An earlier date for a similar development in gold refining in Etruria is suggested. Possible impacts of such a development on Etruscan “dentistry” are noted.

Keywords

  • Platinum Group Element
  • Gold Alloy
  • Replacement Tooth
  • Gold Level
  • Gold Object

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Becker, M.J. (2003). Etruscan Gold Dental Appliances. In: Tsoucaris, G., Lipkowski, J. (eds) Molecular and Structural Archaeology: Cosmetic and Therapeutic Chemicals. NATO ASI Series, vol 117. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-010-0193-9_2

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