An analysis of modified human teeth at Neolithic Çatalhöyük, Turkey

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The use of human teeth for ornamental purposes is archaeologically documented from the European Upper Palaeolithic, and, sporadically, during the subsequent Mesolithic, Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods. To date, no examples of this practice are available for the Near East during this timeframe. This contribution presents three human teeth from Neolithic Çatalhöyük (Central Anatolia, Turkey; 7100–6000 cal BC) that appear to have been modified for use as pendants. Macroscopic, microscopic and radiographic analyses confirm the modification and use of two out of three of these finds. The two confirmed pendants were likely extracted from the skeletonised remains of mature and old adults, carefully drilled, and worn for a variable period of time. The rarity of such artefacts in the prehistoric Near East suggests a profound symbolic meaning for this practice and these objects, and provides new insights into the funerary customs and symbolic importance of the use of human body parts during the Neolithic of the Near East.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102058
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019

    Research areas

  • Anatolia, Material culture, Microwear analysis, Near East, Personal adornment

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