Teeth re-structuring of the early Bisayans

Henry F. Funtecha writes about dental decoration practices of the pre-hispanic Bisayans in the Philippines.

10 November 2006 (The News Today) – Henry F. Funtecha writes about dental decoration practices of the pre-hispanic Bisayans in the Philippines. Makes you wonder how their teeth show up on the archaeological record, eh?

Teeth re-structuring of the early Bisayans

The pre-Spanish Bisayans practiced what is called decorative dentistry. They leveled their teeth through filing by the use of a slender stone filed performed by an expert. Sometimes half the tooth was removed in the process. Variations included opening the space in between the teeth, or grinding them to saw-tooth points, depending upon the preference of the owner. Whatever the style was, the desired effect was always to render the teeth even and symmetrical, as well as colored.

The most impressive examples of Bisayan dentistry were its gold work. Archaeological works had brought out plenty of specimens on this aspect, including those in Pansy Island. This gold work consisted of inlays, crowns or plating performed by a dental worker who got paid for his professional services. Generally, this profession was handed down from father to son, and down through the generations.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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