Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Brief Communication
  • Published:


Early Neolithic tradition of dentistry

Flint tips were surprisingly effective for drilling tooth enamel in a prehistoric population.


Prehistoric evidence for the drilling of human teeth in vivo has so far been limited to isolated cases from less than six millennia ago1,2,3. Here we describe eleven drilled molar crowns from nine adults discovered in a Neolithic graveyard in Pakistan that dates from 7,500–9,000 years ago. These findings provide evidence for a long tradition of a type of proto-dentistry in an early farming culture.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1: Maxillary left second molar from an adult male (MR3 90) from Neolithic Mehrgarh.

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Bennike, P. & Fredebo, L. Bull. Hist. Dent. 34, 81–87 (1986).

    Google Scholar 

  2. Schwartz, J. H., Brauer, J. & Gordon-Larsen, P. Am. J. Phys. Anthrop. 97, 77–85 (1995).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. White, T. D., Degusta, D., Richards, G. D. & Baker, S. G. Am. J. Phys. Anthrop. 103, 409–414 (1997).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Jarrige, C., Jarrige, J.-F., Meadow, R. H. & Quivron, G. (eds) Mehrgarh Field Reports 1974–1985. From Neolithic Times to Indus Civilization (Department of Culture & Tourism, Karachi, 1995).

  5. Alt, K. W. & Pichler, S. L. in Dental Anthropology (eds Alt, K. W., Rosing, F. W. & Teschler-Nicola, M.) 389–415 (Springer, Vienna, 1998).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  6. Lukacs, J. R. & Mindermann, L. L. in South Asian Archaeology 1989 (ed. Jarrige, C.) 167–179 (Prehistory Press Monographic Publication, Madison, 1992).

    Google Scholar 

  7. Kenoyer, J. M. & Vidale, M. in Material Issues in Art and Archaeology III (eds Vandiver, P. B., Druzik, J. R., Wheeler, G. S. & Freestone, I. C.) 495–518 (Material Research Society, Pittsburgh, 1992).

    Google Scholar 

  8. Kenoyer, J. M., Vidale, M. & Bhan, K. K. World Archaeol. 23, 44–63 (1991).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to R. Macchiarelli.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Coppa, A., Bondioli, L., Cucina, A. et al. Early Neolithic tradition of dentistry. Nature 440, 755–756 (2006).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing