Early men who lived 12,000 years ago in East Africa had large-sized facial piercings – per findings

Stephen Nartey October 13, 2022
Facial piercings/Photo credit: Ancient origins/John Willman

The initial conclusion by archaeologists on the findings on the wear and tear in the teeth of the human remains excavated from East Africa was a result of chewing hard plant material. But, further analysis of the teeth dating 12,000 years ago by a researcher at the University of Coimbra in Portugal, John Willman, and his team found a different revelation. 

The teeth and jawbone of the remains showed that the hole patches were a result of the culture of wearing facial piercings instead of chewing hard stuff, according to IFL Science. Willman in his work published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology said after a cursory look at the excavations, he and his team were convinced the 1990 analysis was inaccurate. 

He said the evidence laid in the pattern of the teeth lend towards an attempt by the individual to beautify themselves. He explained that the way and manner the jaw bone and teeth were carved out suggested a deliberate and careful way of piercing through the lower lip. 

Citing a classical example, Willman said the piercings felt like having an object rubbing the upper part of the teeth for a period and the space that’s left as a result of that friction between the two surfaces. He said even with modern technology and influences, people who pierce sections of their face and gum experience a shift in their tooth or gum.

Interest in the remains of a young male excavated in 1913 in the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania piqued the interest of many researchers to understand the way early men lived. Researchers have sought to explain how early men evolved between 20,000 to 12,000 since the first discovery of remains in the region. Willman said he found the details on the remains fascinating and gives a sense of great effort that the early men invested to create holes to insert 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 seen by archaeologists is Otzi the Iceman believed to be a 5,300-year-old mummy dug from the Otztal Alps, which had 7-11 millimeter piercings in the ear. Early men in Central Europe are also believed to have engaged in the piercing of the cheek some 25,000 years ago. The researchers are hoping to make extensive findings with regard to piercings to enable them to establish the behavioral pattern of the people and their culture with regard to how they dress and socialize.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: October 13, 2022


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