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A World View of Bioculturally Modified Teeth$
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Scott E. Burnett and Joel D. Irish

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780813054834

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813054834.001.0001

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Knocking, Filing, and Chipping

Knocking, Filing, and Chipping

Dental Modification in Sub-Saharan Africans

(p.33) 3 Knocking, Filing, and Chipping
A World View of Bioculturally Modified Teeth

Joel D. Irish

University Press of Florida

The purpose of this chapter is twofold. First, an overview of intentional dental modification among sub-Saharan Africans is provided, with a focus on biological cause and effect. Methods for removal and alteration are described alongside their short- and long-term effects. Oral trauma was not uncommon, ranging from mild to life threatening. Yet continuation of the practice indicates that the intended results outweighed any risks, including perceived and plausible benefits to individual reproductive fitness (e.g., Kikuyu and Batonga), internecine competition (Ashanti, San), and prevention (Acholi) or treatment of disease (Masai). The second goal is to document the proliferation of modification types emanating from western Africa. Intrusive “Bantu” migrants, who began (4,000–3,000 BP) a gradual, subcontinent-wide expansion from this region, brought their own specific methods. These styles, which can be tracked, came to influence and replace the practices of indigenous peoples.

Keywords:   dental modification, “Bantu”, oral trauma, sub-Saharan Africans

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