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Etruscan Gold Dental Appliances: Three Newly ‘Discovered’ Examples

by Marshall Joseph Becker

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Dental appliances fashioned from flat gold bands are known from references in ancient Roman literature and have been recovered from archaeological contexts since the late 18th century. Wire appliances of gold and silver are known from the eastern Mediterranean and have completely different origins and functions. Recent research on the known corpus of these ancient appliances, many of which have been lost, provides considerable insight into their cultural uses as well as their place in dental history. Of considerable interest are three Etruscan examples, now lost, that were brought to the United States in the 19th century. The origins and configurations of these three appliances are discussed here to augment what is known about other Etruscan examples, of which only 20 can be documented and nine survive. All appear to have been used as decorative bands or to support replacements to one or both upper central incisors of women from whom healthy teeth had been removed deliberately.

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