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South African Dental Journal

versão On-line ISSN 0375-1562
versão impressa ISSN 0011-8516


RIPAMONTI, U; HOFFMAN, JW; FERRETTI, C  e  RODEN, LC. A suggested intentional extraction of a wisdom tooth: Implies capacity for prosocial behaviour in Homo erectus. S. Afr. dent. j. [online]. 2020, vol.75, n.3, pp.142-148. ISSN 0375-1562.

Paleopathological assessment of a fossilized mandibular fragment (SK 45) of Homo erectus, unearthed at Swartkrans, South Arica, shows new bone formation within the alveolus of the third molar (M3), indicating that the individual lived after loss of that tooth. As there is no evidence of mandibular maxillofacial damage compatible with acute traumatic expulsion of the tooth, it is possible that M3 was intentionally removed. Evidence of bone formation within the socket is supported by a density map of voxel values, representative of the atomic numbers of bone and breccia, constructed by microfocus scanning X-ray tomography (μΟΤ). The newly formed material within the M3 alveolus has values less than the alveolar bone proper but which are significantly greater than breccia, indicating that the material is regenerating bone, and pointing to the possibly intentional extraction of M3. How this was done and whether it was effected by the individual concerned or with the aid of community members, remains in the realms of speculation. The latter is more likely and may be an indication of the early origin of prosocial behaviour at the Plio-Pleistocene boundary, resulting in a concerted action of the Homo clade to assist an individual in severe distress.

Palavras-chave : Homo erectus; Swartkrans; SK 45 mandibular remains; wisdom tooth; intentional extraction; alveolar bone regeneration in hominine evolution; prosocial behaviour.

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