The Etruscans and the History of Dentistry : The Golden Smile through the Ages book cover
1st Edition

The Etruscans and the History of Dentistry
The Golden Smile through the Ages

ISBN 9781138677913
Published March 6, 2017 by Routledge
444 Pages

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Book Description

The Etruscans and the History of Dentistry offers a study of the construction and use of gold dental appliances in ancient Etruscan culture, and their place within the framework of a general history of dentistry, with special emphasis on appliances, from Bronze Age Mesopotamia and Egypt to modern Europe and the Americas. Included are many of the ancient literary sources that refer to dentistry - or the lack thereof - in Greece and Rome, as well as the archaeological evidence of ancient dental health. The book challenges many past works in exposing modern scholars’ fallacies about ancient dentistry, while presenting the incontrovertible evidence of the Etruscans’ seemingly modern attitudes to cosmetic dentistry.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations



Background: the main ancient cultures associated with dental appliances listed in alphabetic order


Chapter 1. Dentistry in medical history: classical roots

Chapter 2. Evidence from the ancient Near East: correcting misconceptions

Chapter 3. The dental prosthesis: a lost Etruscan invention

Chapter 4. Dental appliances and dentistry after the Etruscans, to the present day

Chapter 5. Catalogue of Etruscan and Roman-era dental appliances

Chapter 6. Concluding remarks


Appendix I – Uncertain examples of Etruscan dental appliances

Appendix II – Modern Copies of Etruscan dental appliances

Appendix III – Spurious examples of dental implants or appliances

Appendix IV – Amulets and votives resembling or incorporating teeth

Appendix V – Pliny on cures for oral pathologies

Appendix VI – Evidence for dental extractions in ancient Rome: a summary of the analysis of teeth excavated at the Temple of Castor and Pollux in the Roman forum

Appendix VII – Report on analysis of gold bands in Liverpool appliances (nos. 13 and 14)



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Marshall Joseph Becker is Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at West Chester University, USA, and is a Distinguished Member of the American Anthropological Association.

Jean MacIntosh Turfa is a Consulting Scholar in the Mediterranean Section of the University of Pennsylvania Museum, USA, and a Foreign Member of the Istituto di Studi Etruschi, Italy.


"This study is vitally important for our knowledge of the history of dentistry, especially for the Etruscan period. It is extensively researched and combines the subjects of biological anthropology, medical history and material cultural studies to provide a rounded approach to the history of dentistry. This book is a valuable contribution to scholarship on ancient perceptions of dental health and conceptions of beauty and is highly recommended for anyone interested in the medical humanities."

- Patty Baker, Senior Lecturer in Classical and Archaeological Studies, University of Kent, UK

"Becker and Turfa’s book celebrates Etruscan gold-band dental appliances, ancient prostheses that should be better known ... Becker and Turfa’s book is written in a lively style with ample sign-posting for scholars "reading around," but has also been well-designed for non-classicists, both scholars of dental history and interested lay-people. The authors have crafted a unified, mostly smooth voice that invites readers into the denser discussions and punctuates these with vivid vignettes of ancient life, especially dental pain; footnotes are minimal and comparative evidence thoughtfully deployed."

- Clara Bosak-Schroeder, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA, Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2017