Recent Publications: Evidence for Ancient Tooth Filing in Sonora

An edited volume published this month by the University of Florida Press highlights practices of tooth modification among ancient populations around the world. A chapter authored by Associate Professor of Anthropology and ASM Associate Curator of Bioarchaeology, James Watson and Cristina Garcia M. (Instituto Nacional de Antropología y Historia), documents evidence of tooth filing and intentional removal of teeth (referred to as “ablation”) in burials from an ancient cemetery in central Sonora. El Cementerio, the site excavated by Cristina Garcia from 2001 to 2015, produced numerous examples of tooth modification, mostly filing the corners of the upper front teeth. Watson notes that “…Although commonly associated with ancient communities in Mesoamerica, this is the farthest north that the practice has been documented on a group scale; that is, excluding isolated incidence within the Southwest.” Watson further identified that the practice was likely associated with a rite of passage for puberty, and additionally functioned as identity marker for members of the community within the broader prehistoric world.

Watson, James T., and Cristina Garcia M. (2017) Dental Modification and the Expansion and Manipulation of Mesoamerican Identity into Northwest Mexico. In: SE Burnett, JD Irish (eds.), A World View of Bioculturally Modified Teeth, pp. 298-315. University of Florida Press.