Early Men Who Lived 12,000 Years Ago In East Africa Had Large-Sized Facial Piercings – Archaeologists

Facial piercings/Photo credit: Ancient origins/John Willman


Archaeologists initially concluded that the wear and tear in the teeth of human remains excavated in East Africa was caused by chewing hard plant material. However, further examination of the teeth dating back 12,000 years by John Willman and his colleagues at the University of Coimbra in Portugal yielded a different result.

According to IFL Science, the remains’ teeth and jawbone revealed that the hole patches were caused by the culture of wearing facial piercings instead of chewing hard stuff.

Willman stated in his paper published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology that after a cursory examination of the excavations, he and his colleagues were convinced the 1990 analysis was incorrect.

He claims that the evidence in the pattern of the teeth points to an attempt by the individual to beautify themselves. He explained that the way the jaw bone and teeth were carved suggested a deliberate and careful method of piercing the lower lip.

Willman described the piercings as “having an object rubbing the upper part of the teeth for a period of time and the space that’s left as a result of that friction between the two surfaces.”

He claims that even with modern technology and influences, people who pierce sections of their face and gum experience tooth or gum shift.

Many researchers were drawn to the remains of a young male excavated in 1913 in Tanzania’s Olduvai Gorge in order to better understand how early men lived. Since the discovery of the first remains in the region 20,000 years ago, researchers have attempted to explain how early men evolved between 20,000 and 12,000 years ago. Willman said he found the details on the remains fascinating and that they give a sense of the great effort that the early men put in to create holes for the facial piercings.

It is difficult to determine the tools used in effecting the piercing, but, researchers believe it could be hard but possibly perishable wood. He said they found out that inhabitants usually remove the material when the person passes on because the remains showed no signs of the piercings used.

The oldest piercing discovered by archaeologists is Otzi the Iceman, a 5,300-year-old mummy discovered in the Otztal Alps with 7-11 millimeter piercings in the ear. Early men in Central Europe are also thought to have pierced their cheeks around 25,000 years ago. The researchers hope to make extensive findings about piercings that will allow them to establish the behavioral pattern of the people and their culture in terms of how they dress and socialize.

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