Mummy with Mouthful of Cavities Discovered
2012-10-11 0:00

By Owen Jarus |

An Egyptian man may have succumbed to a painful sinus infection 2,100 years ago.

Around 2,100 years ago, at a time when Egypt was ruled by a dynasty of Greek kings, a young wealthy man from Thebes was nearing the end of his life.

Rather than age, he may have succumbed to a sinus infection caused by a mouthful of cavities and other tooth ailments, according to new research on the manís odd dental filling.

Recently published CT scans of his mummified body allowed researchers to reconstruct details of his final days.

The man, whose name is unknown, was in his 20s or early 30s, and his teeth were in horrible shape. He had "numerous" abscesses and cavities, conditions that appear to have resulted, at some point, in a sinus infection, something potentially deadly, the study researchers said.

The pain the young man suffered would have been beyond words and drove him to see a dental specialist. Dentistry was nothing new in Egypt, ancient records indicate that it was being practiced at least as far back as when the Great Pyramids were built. Dental problems were also not unusual, the coarsely ground grain ancient Egyptians consumed was not good for the teeth.

A modern-day dentist would have a hard time dealing with the young manís severe condition and one can imagine that the ancient dentist must have felt overwhelmed. The researchers noted that even today infections associated with the teeth pose a "serious health risk."

Nevertheless the ancient specialist tried something to relieve his suffering. Using a piece of linen, perhaps dipped in a medicine such as fig juice or cedar oil, the expert created a form of "packing" in the young manís biggest and perhaps most painful cavity, located on the left side of his jaw between the first and second molars.

The packing acted as a barrier to prevent food particles from getting into the cavity, with any medicine on the linen helping to ease the pain, the study researchers said. Sadly, while this likely helped the young man out, he would succumb shortly after, perhaps in just a matter of weeks. Researchers canít say for sure the cause of death, but the sinus infection is a good possibility.

When he died he was mummified, his brain and many of his organs taken out, resin put in and his body wrapped. Curiously, embalmers left his heart inside the body, a sign perhaps of his elite status, researchers say.


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